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Better machines; chasing new dreams: Schulich engineers share their stories

May 29, 2017
Sarah McGinnis

In honour of National Engineering Month and International Women’s Day, two prominent Schulich Engineers share why they became engineers.

“Engineering is a career that can take you anywhere you want to go” Monique Sullivan,

I started cycling as a sport when I was 12, and my first memories of engineering were at the track. The paralympic team was modifying a bicycle for a teenage boy who couldn’t use all of his limbs. There was such a sense of freedom when he got on his bike for the first time. He could go anywhere! In that moment, I knew I wanted to be an engineer too.

When it came time for university I was torn. Should I go to school and study engineering, or should I keep riding and try to qualify for the Olympics? Luckily for me, the University of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering made it possible to do both.

It wasn’t easy, but my professors and my friends all helped me to juggle training schedules and international competitions with lab assignments and mid-terms. With Schulich’s support, I competed in both the London and Rio Olympic Games AND earned my engineering degree.

Engineering is in everything we touch or everything we do. Love music? Why not design better instruments or engineer new sounds? Dream of starting your own business? You can invent something you know the world needs.

Engineering is a career that can take you anywhere you want to go.

Monique Sullivan,
Two-time Olympian
Schulich Engineer

“I am making the world a better place” Qiao Sun,

As a little girl growing up in China, I dreamed of designing toys. There was something about figuring out how they worked or finding ways to make them better that appealed to me.

At 16, I was accepted into university to study marine diesel engines. My parents are doctors and none of us knew what I would be doing. Someone pointed to a big truck with exhaust pipes and said that’s what I’d study. I wasn’t sure what was ahead, but I was eager to try.

Since then I’ve completed a Masters in robotics, moved to Canada to study space robotics and even worked on the Canadarm. I always felt, if I don’t like the way something works then I can find a solution to change it. To me, the ability to make a difference is what makes engineering so engaging.  

Right now at the University of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering, I’m researching ways to predict when equipment will fail before it happens. I’m like a doctor for machines. Being able to help detect an oil leak before a spill, or stop a train from breaking down during rush-hour commute, is how I am making the world a better place.

Do you want to make lives better or protect the environment? You should become an engineer. We need people like you to help us change the world.

Qiao Sun,
Mechanical Engineering Professor
Schulich Engineer