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Beth Vary

What is your current job?

I am a Human Factors Engineer at AMEC Nuclear Safety Solutions. By taking into account human strengths and weaknesses, Human Factors Engineers design human-machine interfaces so that the interface is intuitive to use, efficient and safe. In the nuclear industry, my work ranges from ensuring good ergonomics for new tooling, to supporting control room design, to analyzing the minimum staff required to be present at nuclear power generating stations.

What made you want to pursue a career in engineering?

In retrospect, I have always enjoyed imagining how to design things better from the user’s point of view. But in highschool, it was not an easy decision to choose one career path when I was interested in so many different things. I think it was a bit of luck combined with the support of my parents that helped me choose this path. A career in engineering was definitely the right fit for me.

What’s your favourite part of your job? In order to improve how people do work, I must first understand the work that people do. To this end, I am fortunate to get to meet so many amazing people and to learn about their jobs. At times I feel more like an ethnographer, than an engineer. That is one of the beautiful things about engineering; it opens so many worlds that you would not normally get to experience firsthand.

How do you celebrate National Engineering Month?

This is my first year celebrating National Engineering Month. I am going to a presentation on the revitalization of Toronto’s iconic Union Station organized by the Engineering Innovations Forum. Then on March 26th, I will be watching to see if the Rube Goldberg machine built by the University of Toronto’s Engineering Society will successfully light the CN Tower purple (the traditional colour of engineering).

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

If you have the chance to participate in a co-op or internship program during your schooling, I highly recommend that you seize the opportunity. Real-life work experience can put your degree in perspective. Personally, I felt that the co-op program showed me the light at the end of the tunnel. You will learn things that cannot be taught in the classroom, and it will give you an advantage when looking for jobs after you graduate.

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Beth Vary graduated from the University of Waterloo in 2005, with a Bachelors of Applied Science in Systems Design Engineering, and later received her Masters in Applied Science in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering from the University of Toronto. In 2007, she was awarded the Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Her research involved the development of an interface for an intelligent water monitoring system for municipal drinking water systems.

Beth Vary is a Professional Engineer and has work experience in a variety of industries, including: health care, mining, and aerospace. Her career in nuclear power started in 2009 when she joined Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, the developer of the CANDU reactor. Then, in 2011, she joined AMEC NSS, a nuclear consulting company in Toronto, ON.

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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