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Dr. Mary Wells

What is your current job?

I am currently a professor of Materials Engineering in the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering at the University of Waterloo. As a university professor, I teach students, conduct research and supervise graduate students, as well as carrying out administrative work. I am also the Associate Dean for Outreach, responsible for all of the outreach programs Waterloo Engineering develops and delivers, including our Women in Engineering activities.

What made you want to pursue a career in engineering?

When I was in elementary and high school, I was always good at math and science. My father and uncle were engineers, so I got to hear a little bit about engineering from them. There were also very good career prospects for engineers when I was growing up—similar to today—that appealed to me. I also thought studying engineering was a great way to train my mind how to think and solve problems.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

I absolutely love interacting with the students and sharing my passion for engineering with them. Engineering is a very rewarding career, enabling me to work on problems that are intellectually challenging, while also having an impact in my community and on the world.

How do you celebrate National Engineering Month?

Waterloo Engineering’s outreach team runs a number of events to celebrate National Engineering Month, including a Girl Guide badge day during which Girl Guides visit the University of Waterloo and earn their engineering badges. In 2012, we awarded 120 engineering badges to girl guides through this event. We also run an Engineering Explorations event where families with students in grades 6-8 visit Waterloo Engineering and find out more about the work being done by our engineers, such as helping to keep our drinking water clean, developing new communications gadgets and technologies, and leading some of the newest health care developments.

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

I have never regretted becoming an engineer, and have found my career as a professional engineer to be extremely fulfilling. My one piece of advice would be that even though math and science form the academic foundation for engineering, there is a lot more to engineering than just math and science including being a great communicator and possessing excellent people skills. As my mother quoted to me when I first started my undergraduate degree at McGill “Engineering is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration”. Thomas Edison first coined this phrase around “genius” but the same principles apply to being successful when studying engineering.

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Mary Wells received her BEng from McGill University in 1987 in Metallurgical Engineering. She received her PhD degree in 1996 from the University of British Columbia, Canada after working in the steel industry for three years both in Canada and internationally.

Dr. Wells started her academic career as an Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia in 1996 in the department of Materials Engineering. Dr. Wells joined the University of Waterloo in 2007 and is currently a Professor of Materials in the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering. Her research focuses on the development and manufacturing of advanced metallic products for use in the transportation and other sectors. This includes developing mathematical models of the manufacturing processes used to make the products as well as understanding the microstructure and property changes that occur in the material as a result of the manufacturing history. A particularly exciting project Dr. Wells is working on now is the development of laminate aluminum sheets produced via a novel co-casting process. This allows the properties of the sheet at both the surface and core to be engineering and optimized based on the final product application.

In addition to her research and teaching responsibilities, Dr. Wells has served as the Faculty of Engineering’s Associate Dean of Outreach since 2008, and is also chair of the Women in Engineering (WiE) committee. These portfolios include outreach for youth related to science and engineering, as well as promoting diversity within the Faculty. As Associate Dean for Outreach, she has consolidated all of Engineering’s outreach activities under a program entitled WE-Connect. The WE-Connect programs are designed to create positive, hands-on learning environments that inspire young students to pursue careers in engineering and science, particularly amongst underrepresented populations. In 2012, approximately10,000 youth were engaged in clubs, summer camps and school workshops. Dr. Wells has also devoted her career to encouraging girls and young women to pursue degrees in engineering, providing local and provincial leadership through invited lectures and participation on various boards and councils.

Dr. Wells is married and the proud mother of three children. She also enjoys jewellery making, hiking and kayaking, as well as tango dancing in her spare time.

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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