Women need to embrace curiosity and risk taking if they want to excel in science and engineering, says U of T Engineering alumna Natalie Panek (AeroE MASc 0T9).
Panek, a systems engineer at MDA Space Missions, emphasized her desire to see more young women become scientists and engineers in a recent TEDxYouth@Toronto talk.
“For me, my dream would be to inspire more women into challenging themselves and taking risk to enrol themselves in science and engineering fields,” said Panek. She notes that fewer than 20 per cent of students in science, technology and engineering programs are women and that these numbers have not been improving in recent years.
“We need to encourage more women to test ideas and push boundaries,” she added.
Panek practises what she preaches. She helped design and drove the University of Calgary’s car in the 2005 Solar Challenge, and at U of T, she helped design and complete combustion experiments that simulated microgravity. She’s also participated in the International Space University Space Studies Program and has been a special project intern at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
In her TEDx talk, Panek urges girls to challenge themselves, to always be learning, and to take risks. “You can’t make a wrong decision,” she said. “You can just make decisions that will lead you down different paths, which give you different stories to talk about and different adventures to tell about.”
“Start thinking like leaders, start speaking like leaders, start acting like leaders,” she concluded.
Watch Panek’s talk here.