CU75 Champions: PhD student a leader for women in engineering

Linklater believes women bring a unique perspective to the engineering profession and tries to encourage young girls to pursue careers in the field. (Chris Roussakis Photo)

Natalie Linklater is one of Carleton’s new CU75 campaign champions. Help us celebrate our incredible people by visiting their biographical pages, sharing their stories on social media and taking our CU75 quiz.

Environmental engineering PhD student Natalie Linklater is all about changing attitudes, in more ways than one.

“I’m driven by the idea that we, as a society, can minimize our impact on our environment,” says Linklater. “As we become more aware of our impact not only should our treatments change but our attitudes should change too.”

She aspires to change how Canadian treatment facilities disinfect wastewater with her doctoral research on advanced methods to evaluate new disinfectants that could potentially replace chlorine. Too often the over-chlorinated effluent from facilities can result in dead fish, something Linklater believes should be avoidable.

At the same time, she displays a real passion for engineering and energetically encourages many young women to consider it as a profession.

“I had misconceptions about what engineering was as a teenager,” says Linklater. “It’s a great profession, and I think there are other girls out there who would really enjoy engineering but don’t have a good idea of what it’s like.”

Linklater sees it as nothing short of essential to close the gender disparity in the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

While pursuing her undergraduate and master’s degrees at Carleton, Linklater co-founded and served as president of the Society for Environmental Engineering and Sciences (SEEDS). She was also engineering co-chair of Carleton University Women in Science and Engineering (CU-WISE), an organization that reaches out to girls in high school who are deciding what to take in university.

“So much engineering work happens through collaboration and women offer a unique perspective when it comes to engineering design,” she says. “I feel the profession could only benefit from a better representation of women.”

In 2012, Linklater was awarded the Claudette MacKay-Lassonde Graduate Engineering Scholarship for her community work. The annual $15,000 award goes to one female engineering student who demonstrates leadership and promotes the improvement of Canadian society.

Her PhD research into alternative wastewater disinfectants also earned her this year’s Graduate Research and Innovative Thinking (GRIT) award, which offers up to $5,000 of funding. She will use hers this summer to evaluate her methods at a pilot facility currently being developed by the City of Waterloo.

Linklater also takes her research on the road. In 2012, she travelled to Busan, South Korea for the biennial International Water Conference and Exhibition and, last fall, she attended the inaugural National Water and Wastewater Conference in Whistler, B.C.

In Whistler, she presented a paper on the effectiveness of chlorine and chlorine-free alternatives and won the Philip H. Jones Award.

The paper was co-authored by Banu Örmeci, Canada Research Chair in Wastewater Treatment Engineering, a leader in wastewater treatment research who is also Linklater’s doctoral supervisor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department.

Under her guidance, Linklater feels she has learned how she will be able to make future contributions to the field.

“The conference in Whistler was like none other I’ve attended,” says Linklater. “It was unique in that there was a mix of industry and municipal leaders, as well as academics, and I was exposed to the big issues that water and wastewater managers face today.

This entry was written by Joseph Mathieu and posted in the issue. Bookmark the permalink or share the following short URL for this article via social media: http://carletonnow.carleton.ca/?p=13628

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