Engineering (WISE) at U. of C. and UAYs at U. of A.; Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science and Technology (WISEST); and Operation Minerva, which is a job-shadowing program for girls.
From time to time, the members of AWES have given support to charities such as the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter.
What kinds of jobs do the members have?
The members of AWES are women of all ages who work in a variety of engineering fields, and in the sciences as geologists, geophysicists, chemists, physicists, biologists, zoologists, science teachers, and researchers. Some work in geomatics or biomedicine. Some women engineers and scientists have branched out into selling products; writing, editing, or publishing technical materials; or teaching professional skills. Some are managers; some are university professors; some are consultants. Some work for large companies, utilities, or government agencies; some are presidents of their own companies.
Some members are married; some have children. Some may choose to suspend their careers and stay at home with their children for a period of months or years. AWES offers a supportive network to them as well as to those members who find themselves unemployed.
What will I get out of being a member of AWES?
Some great friendships have developed amongst AWES members, so you may expect to find camaraderie, friendship, support and encouragement when you need it; a valuable network of people in similar careers who may be able to help you solve a problem or find a job; informal opportunities to meet and talk to other women with similar interests, goals, and problems; and opportunities to “give something back” by serving as a volunteer in the school counselling programs or on AWES committees. You will also have an opportunity to gain valuable experience by serving on the executive.
AWES provides a monthly program meeting as well as informal networking sessions. Programs cover a wide range of interesting topics from science research to humour in the workplace to personal development. Members receive a newsletter, Integral, which provides a calendar of events, news of achievements by women, write-ups of programs, and articles written by members.
The members of AWES are interesting to know, with their demanding jobs and fascinating hobbies that range from ballet to rock climbing, painting to parachute jumping, playing the piano to playing baseball. Some of them also serve in volunteer positions for APEGGA and the technical societies.
May I attend a meeting?
If you write or telephone, you can find out when the next meeting will be held. You are welcome to attend.
How do I become a member?
You may pick up a membership application at any meeting, but there will be no pressure on you to join. Please get acquainted with some of the members of AWES, and take your time in deciding whether to become a member.
Jennifer A. Mather Ph.D. is a Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at University of Lethbridge
Conference In Thailand!
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One of the rewards of researchers’ lives
Having a conference set in Phuket, Thailand, in February just adds to the pleasure. Mind you, it’s not a vacation! and people sometimes assume it is. Conferences involve work preparing your presentation and work presenting, networking and cooperating once you get there.
Three phases of conference preparation
Phase 1 is far away, I think “Oh, what a good idea” and “I hope I can spare the time” and even “What part of my work will I be able to talk about?” and ignore the work involved.Phase 2 comes as the conference gets closer, and consists of thoughts like “Will I ever get this Power Point preparation ready on time?” “Why did I commit to do all this work” and even “Think of all I’ll have to catch up when I get back!” as well as the work of preparation. Fortunately there is Phase 3, the conference, when I think “I’m glad I went to all the effort to come” followed by “Hey, that’s an interesting idea” and “I needed the stimulation of my colleagues from around the world”. Of course, then I go home and start with Phase I before the next conference.
Thailand is a temperature shock for Albertans in February
It takes a really long time to get to Phuket. With each flight the ground temperature rises. So we leave Lethbridge and arrive in Calgary, it is about -10 C outside the plane (yes, after we get back it is -20 C). We fly to Vancouver, and there the temperature is +10 C. Then we have a really long flight, 13 hours to Hong Kong. I don’t sleep well in aeroplanes and since we fly at night I don’t see much of Alaska, the Kamchatka peninsula and China as we go over them. I get a few hours’ sleep and read a novel, watch two movies and eat ‘dinner’ and ‘breakfast’. In Hong Kong the temperature is +17 C. After a few hours’ in the airport staring at the hills of Hong Kong we go on to Phuket, and as we get off the plane the temperature outside is +32 C. All told it takes around 27 hours, and yes, we are wilted by the heat and jet lagged too.
The International Cephalopod Conference
It’ officially concentrates on “Biology, Recruitment and Culture of Cephalopods”. That means a wide range of topics, as this conference is focussed on the group of animals. Cephalopods are octopuses, squid and cuttlefish, and the very different nautiluses – smart animals that fit to my interest in behaviour, particularly on learning, intelligence and communication. Lately there has been a big emphasis on practical areas, since cephalopods have become a big item in the world fisheries. So in addition to ‘abstract’ topics like lateralization of eye use, patterns of embryonic development and mating behaviour, we’ll get practical ones such as migration, growth of octopuses and even food value of squid.
The conference lures delegates from all around the world
I count it up and find the 130 people there come from 22 countries. This includes countries with big fisheries and seacoasts like the United States, Japan, the UK and Portugal. But there are also a host of European countries including Spain, Denmark, Germany and even Austria. And there are ‘third world’ countries including Brazil, India, Indonesia and the Phillippines – and, of course, a good representation from Thailand. English is the language of the conference, but this English is spoken with different degrees of competence and with accents that sometimes make the ears strain to pick it up. I have most difficulty with French and Japanese accents, but find it fascinating that people slip easily back into their own language between presentations. It makes life interesting.
Because I try to get to this conference each time, though that is every three years, I meet and get re-acquainted with members of this international group each conference. I have ‘conference friends’. So I revisit with the South African researchers I bird-watched with in Shimizu City, Japan 12 years ago, get a big thank-you from a French colleague I sent a paper to a few moths ago, gossip with the scientist who hosted me at Banyuls-sur-Mer, France in the early 1980s. I meet people I’ve read articles by and get to hear more in depth about what they meant when they said them. I get kidded by the colleague who reviewed my grant proposal a couple of months ago, and catch up on the grad student I helped who is now in Australia. We’re a shifting, plastic group, threaded together by e-mail and knotted at conferences.
Phuket is new to most of us and a mixture of the exotic and the familiar.
The spacious air-conditioned hotel is welcome after the 32 degree heat that hit us at the airport. Waiting in our room is a fruit basket: finger bananas, rose apples that are shaped like small pears and taste kind of like apples, green but tasty oranges and a pineapple boat. Everything is standard hotel room except one quirk. The key is attached to a plastic panel that energizes the electrical systems in the room, and there’s only one. When you go out and take the key, everything electrical shuts off! It takes us a while to remember that the one going out with the key is going to leave the one remaining in the dark. And since the shut-off has a grace period of about 3 minutes, it’s too late to yell down the hallway.
We are not at the beach resort area but in Phuket City, probably because delegates would head for the sand rather than the conference sessions if it were too easy to get there. Phuket is an island off the south coast of Thailand, famous for these beaches and their resorts and relatively urban and prosperous because of them. So out the window there are standard city street scenes. More scooters than cars zip along the street and buses for tourists wait at the parking lot behind our building. People yawn and stretch and go about their daily business from apartment blocks, street vendors sell fast food, Thai style. Children in their school uniforms head off to school, as schooling is compulsory until age 16.
From time to time I’m reminded that this is not North America
I look down and see a monk is his saffron robes in front of a four-apartment block. The family has laid out an elaborate meal of four dishes on a folding table, and he is carefully choosing food for the day. Monks in Thailand, whether doing the few-week suggested time for adolescent boys or in the monastery permanently, obey the rule of nothing in excess and beg for their food. But it isn’t really begging, in accepting food the monk bestows a blessing on the family by allowing them to feed him. So after he has filled his wicker carrier with food, the family bows their heads and places hands together in a prayer-like position in front of their chests and then face and receives his blessing. Then he turns and stolidly trudges up the hill about eight blocks towards the temple I can see in the distance, and they take the leftover food inside, fold the table and go about their daily business. Yes, I’m definitely not in Canada.
Karen Tsang is the former 2002 UC-WISE representative to the AWSN and the author of several Mentor of the Millennium biographies. Unfortunately, her internship was cut short because of the SARS threat. Karen is now safely back in Calgary.
Happy Chinese New Year!
Yes, the hoopla has officially begun for what is the biggest holiday in Hong Kong. The shops here are stocked full of all sorts of flowers, decorative papers, fake firecrackers, flowers, dried fruits, fortune books, candy, cakes, red money envelopes, and other goodies,just in time for the New Year.
Students started their one and a half weeks of Chinese New Year holiday this past Tuesday and people who are working have Friday, Jan 31st, and Monday, February 3rd off. The Shanghai and Beijing office is closed for holidays from Feb 1st to Feb 10th. There are all sorts of special traditions that are followed by most people here during the New Year, such as cleaning the house with new cloths, and most people have a “shrine” in their apartments that have to be cleaned with these special leaves soaked in water. People also put cakes and other food items on the shrine as an offering. As well, different pieces of furniture are rearranged according to a fortune telling book that tells you which way everything should be facing.
Most people eat out for dinner with friends this week, and once the New Year rolls around, it’s all about spending time with your family. One of the funniest traditions that I’ve heard about is parents taking their kids out for an evening stroll after New Year’s dinner, where the kids “sell their laziness”. Apparently, the children yell “selling laziness!” or something to that effect to rid themselves of their lazy ways for the upcoming year. We were extremely busy at work during the Christmas holidays, so needless to say, the last couple of months have flown by.
About three weeks ago, I finally got to see one of the bridges I’m working on for this project! We visited the site of our future development, and used the knowledge from the countless plans, drawings, and aerial photographs to imagine what it’s going to look like. While I worked on new bridges, I was fortunate to also have worked on bridge modifications, so I actually had something real to look at. It was so exciting to see it the bridge in 3D,and I realized that even though I thought I knew it inside out, the picture that I could see in my head was only derived from 2D drawings -there’s so much more that you realize when you see it in real life, and how it relates to the rest of its surroundings.
We also saw, up close, the difficulties that have been plaguing the project from the beginning – there were so many graves and temples, all
of them untouchable, and the villagers weren’t very friendly either. We were all warned not to talk about the project, or bring any sort of engineering instruments; we were to play the part of tourists. I guess if I was a villager, I wouldn’t be very nice to us either and I could tell that they were suspicious. I felt so out of place getting out of a brand new Lexus SUV, walking into the middle of nowhere, grass tall, trees overgrown, villagers peering out of their extremely old and weathered shelters, two of us carrying expensive cameras with huge telescopic lenses, and walking single file up to the top of the hill where we could get the best view of the entire site. Like so many people, I feel bad about building an expressway right in the middle of their village, an area that is peaceful, scenic, and beautiful. The much needed project is rather political, with the Chinese government and Hong Kong government pushing each other to build it as fast as possible, but each blaming the other for the delays that the project is experiencing. Pictures from the site visit can be seen at http://www.pbase.com/ricalaw/site_visit_to_dbl.
In other news, I just got over my first really bad cold here. I was sick enough that I had to drag myself to a doctor to get some medication because I couldn’t afford to take time off of work that week. Anyway, seeing the doctor is much different over here. I walked into the office at 6:45 pm and the nurse told me that there were 11 people in front of me. She said that I would get in by approximately 7:15. I sat in a corner, waiting for this miracle to happen whereby the one doctor was going to see each patient for less than 3 minutes to live up to this nurse’s promise. I actually got in at 7:15! The nurse called each patient’s name, they’d walk through the door, and come out in less than 2 minutes!
I was curious to see what sort of mysterious super healer sat behind the magic door that was able to diagnose a patient in less time than it takes to warm up a car during a Calgary winter. It’s more like a visit with your professor. My doctor was dressed in a suit,sitting behind a desk and he asked me some questions, I said “ah”, and he listened to my back with a stethoscope. Then he asked me about what I was doing here. We chatted a bit about what I was doing and I had to tell him about some reactions that I have to certain medications, and then I realized that I had completely
violated the 2-3 minute policy. I swear that when I walked back into the waiting room, everyone was either mad at me for taking so much time, or felt sorry for me because they thought my extended visit probably meant that I had a serious illness!
I wish you good health, happiness, and all the best in the New Year!
How’s it going in your part of the world?
I cannot believe that I have been here for a month — time has really flown by, but I feel as if I have only seen a little of what there is to see around here!
Work is going well, although I am having a hard time getting over how much time some of the people in my office work! They start at 8:30 in the morning, and go until about 9 or 10 at night, and come in on Saturdays and
Sundays as well. It’s pretty crazy! I’m not required to work Saturdays, but I had to go in this weekend to finish up a couple of things.
I just finished nursing my very first overseas cold! It is a little strange to be in bed, shivering because you have the flu when you know it is plus 33 degrees outside. I was also introduced to Chinese flu medication, which knocked me out cold — this stuff is potent!
I saw a Typhoon about a week ago and that was pretty exciting. The umbrellas really turn upside down when you go outside and the rain is so heavy it falls in diagonal sheets, so there really is no need for an umbrella anyway.
You’re going to get wet no matter what!
In terms of new foods I’ve tried in the last while, I had butterfish sashimi, which was quite tasty. However, my latest food adventure is to seek out a very famous place here in Hong Kong that serves roast goose on top
of noodles called lai-fun. My Dad told me that there are different prices for the right leg and left leg of the goose (he forgets which one is supposed to taste better!), which I find absolutely crazy, but if there’s anything
that I’ve learned in the time I’ve been here, it’s that anything goes, and the difference in price could very well be true!! I’ll be sure to tell you all about it when I do try it and I’ll make sure I bring a friend who orders the opposite appendage from me!!
I did manage to pick up a digital camera after looking around for a couple of weeks at what seemed like millions of cameras in millions of different stores. Buying electronics in Hong Kong, as I’ve learned, is quite the
adventure. There is so much more the eye cannot see! I found out that, in addition to the many, MANY stores you see at the street level, there are entire floors of electronic products in apartment complexes. We went to an
apartment building with 47 floors, and walking off the escalators on 6, 12, and 19 was like walking into Future Shop, but on any other floor, you stepped into the hallway leading to the doors of apartments. It was strange to be riding in an escalator with an old lady with her day’s groceries on one side, and someone else on the other struggling with their new subwoofer! However, I was told that you really should not venture into these stores alone. There are stories about people going into these stores, only to have the doors locked on them and the owners demanding that they buy something before they leave. Yikes! Also, a lot of their products is what the people call, literally translated from Chinese, “water-stock”, which means that the product was brought over illegally from Japan or China. While the product might be fine, there is a large possibility that you could end up spending hundreds of dollars on a dud.