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Claire Samson

Invest in your mental and physical health. You will eed strength for pressing deadlines (sprints!) and long-term projects (marathons!)

Originally from Quebec City, Claire Samson is a professional engineer with an undergraduate degree in engineering physics from Laval University, a M.Sc. in geological sciences from McGill and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Toronto.

Claire has a wide range of experience, both in industry and academia, in Canada, as well as in Europe. From 1991 to 1992, she was a research associate at Cambridge University in England, and from 1993 to 1999, she worked for the Shell Oil group at three locations in the Netherlands, including the Shell International Research Laboratory. Upon relocating to Canada in 2000, she joined Neptec Design Group, an Ottawa high-tech company specializing in vision systems for space applications. In 2003, she was appointed in the Department of Earth Sciences at Carleton University where she served as departmental Chair from 2010-2013. Claire teaches introductory and advanced courses on natural disasters, and exploration geophysics. She has led several international field trips in locations such as Bermuda, Hawaii and Chile.

Claire’s research activities proceed on several fronts, including laser imaging of earth materials, seismic and electromagnetic prospecting, and planetary geology. In both her research and field work, Claire is keen to address practical problems, from rock stability in underground mines to surveying using unmanned air vehicles, and to involve industry partners.

Claire is currently Vice-President of both the Canadian Geophysical Union and the Canadian Exploration Geophysical Society.

Claire is an enthusiastic world traveler. She has visited over 40 countries and speaks four languages.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, what is your current job?

y job is multifaceted. It involves teaching, research and service to the community. My days are very full and there is never a dull moment! A “typical” day might involve teaching in the classroom and on-line/TV via tele-education, having a team meeting with an industrial sponsor, and sitting on a scholarship adjudication committee.

What made you want to pursue a career in engineering?

I wanted to see the world and I wanted a challenge! I chose engineering physics because it is very broad-based. I postponed specialization as long as I could… and then, I chose to study geophysics which is a multidisciplinary field combining earth sciences, physics and engineering. My inclination was (and remains) for rigorous and quantitative analysis. I also wanted the opportunity to get away from my computer screen at times and to do field work.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

My favourite part of the job is interacting with my students. My students are energetic, motivated and keen to learn. They learn from me; I learn from them. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to see my students develop their skills. My approach is to team up with them. We work together in the field, we discuss ideas back and forth, and co-author research papers.

Another activity I find very motivating is collaborating with industrial partners to solve technical problems together. I particularly admire the entrepreneurial spirit of people from small high-tech companies.

How do you celebrate National Engineering Month?

Every day during National Engineering Month, I will work hard, and enjoy to the fullest what I am doing. Actually, this is what I aim to do every month!

What advice do you have for young women who hope to pursue a career in your field?

Follow your passion. Put in the effort. Work hard and systematically. Break big problems into smaller problems.Be resilient. Your career might not follow a straight path. Be true to your guiding principles. There will be obstacles; there will be victories. Take the time to savour your successes.Take your place in your peer group. Do not be afraid to lead.How would you describe the relationship with your mentor/mentee?

I was fortunate to have a Ph.D. supervisor, Professor Gordon West, who trusted me to do good work at a time when I was lacking in self-confidence. The situation gradually improved as I started to write my first research papers and put forward my own ideas. When I face a challenge, I often ask myself: what would Prof. West do in this case? I strive to follow in his footsteps but… I am petite and he is a giant in our discipline!

Through outreach and professional development activities, research, partnerships, thought leadership and online initiatives, we work with industry and academia to educate on the value of diversity for innovation, to inspire women to thrive and to celebrate the contributions of women in science and engineering.
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