Showcasing Women in Science
14 February 2019
Eve Langelier, a research engineer specialized in biomechanics and professor with the Department of Medical Engineering at the Université de Sherbrooke, is currently the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Chair for Women in Science and Engineering (Quebec). She has made the progression and influence of women in these sectors her daily mission.
What sparked your love for science?
“Les Débrouillards, a book I read when I was little. There was an experiment booklet that came with it. I don’t think I did a lot of them, but I loved seeing what we could make happen. My grandfather was a radiologist and my father studied physiology, which I’m sure influenced me also.”
What led to you becoming a scientist?
“It was a last-minute decision! I loved science, biology and design. I wanted to draw anatomical charts like my great aunt, but my career advisor told me that there weren’t many job opportunities in that field! (Laughs) At the time, my father’s hobby was flying small aircraft. I went to study mechanical engineering thinking that I could always draw airplanes. Like many others, I was taken aback when I realized what we would be studying!”
How did you choose your specialization?
“I interned with several companies and soon realized that it was not something I wanted to do. The university had just welcomed a new professor specialized in bioengineering and I decided to pursue that particular branch of mechanical engineering for my masters, doctorate and post-doctorate. After my first child, I was working towards my post-doctorate in Quebec City, where my partner lived, when I was offered a faculty position in mechanical engineering at the Université de Sherbrooke.”
“My specialty is two-sided: I’m very interested in the mechanobiology of tendons, and in increasing mobility in people with physical limitations.”
What about your passion?
“Learning about biology, biochemistry, pharmacology and mechanical engineering is very challenging, but being able to understand how our bodies work is just completely fascinating! My biggest drive is the positive impact that our research can have in helping people to heal quicker, prevent injuries and develop tools for young paralympic athletes, for example.”
“Contrary to what we might often be led to believe, mechanical engineering has nothing to do with automotive mechanics. And electrical engineering has nothing to do with connecting wires. The word ‘engineering’ tends to intimidate girls, so we need to start working to debunk the preconceived ideas of engineering as early as elementary school.”
Tell me about your position as Research Chair.
“Our goal is to increase women’s participation in science and engineering. I want to break down the barriers women and girls face from childhood to the moment they join the workforce, so that they consider science and engineering as fields in which they can work and study, and so that they choose them. One of my aims is to make professors, colleagues and corporate leaders aware of what women can bring to the table, and teach them how to approach women.”
“Women are under-represented in the engineering fields. They represent just 11% of those enrolled in electrical engineering degree programs, 13% of those enrolled in mechanical engineering degree programs, and 16% of those enrolled in computer engineering degree programs. In other fields, such as biology, we are wrongly led to believe that the issue of women in science has been resolved, because we have achieved parity. Yet, the higher you climb in the hierarchy of decision-making positions, the fewer women you’ll find. Men hold the majority of positions deciding on the future of research and teaching in the field.”
“We need to introduce girls to women who are role models working in these fields and increase the visibility of female scientists in society, showing their uniqueness and diversity. We need to show women with children, without children, those who love music, those who love sport… and not just those at the very top!”