Months after learning that the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OPSE) is awarding her its prestigious Gold Medal, Professor Monique Frize is still glowing.
Frize, 68, is a legend in engineering circles for her tireless efforts to open the field to women and to break down barriers that have existed in a traditionally male-dominated profession. Her area of expertise is biomedical engineering but she has long been a leading spokesperson for female engineers in Canada.
So, when she got the letter back in June from the OPSE informing her of the news, she could hardly believe it.
“I was shocked. I was really surprised because there have been so few women I never thought my name would go up there,” she says. “It means a lot.”
Her accomplishments are many. She has received the Order of Canada and several honorary degrees – which she says are all special to her – but receiving the Gold Medal has a special place in her heart.
It will be presented at a ceremony in November and is the OSPE’s premier award. It recognizes conscientious commitment to public service, technical excellence and outstanding professional leadership.
“My other honours were not from engineers … this is really my profession and to really finally get recognition for my engineering work and my women in engineering work … this medal is confirmation that I am an engineer again,” Frize says.
She recently published a book on the subject, which combines history, with research and her personal experience. The book, entitled “The Bold and the Brave: a History of Women in Science and Engineering,” is published by the University of Ottawa Press (2009).
In June, Frize – who is a professor at both Carleton and University of Ottawa – retired from teaching. At Carleton, she was promoted to Distinguished Professor and at University of Ottawa, Professor Emerita.
While she’s retired, for Frize that really means supervising 12 graduate students – five PhDs and seven master’s. And she’s started researching her second book.
“My passion is engineering research,” she says.
For Carleton engineering Prof. Moyra McDill, Frize was an obvious choice to be honoured by the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers.
“Monique has been the pre-eminent woman in Canada for the advancement of women in engineering over the last 20 or more years. As you will see, in recent years she has extended that reach to the international community and the support of women in countries where there is very little, if any, other support,” wrote McDill in her nomination letter.
“I can’t even begin to think of how many school visits Monique has made; how many seminars have been given; how many committees she has belonged to; how many students and, indeed, faculty members she has mentored over the years, and yet she continues to be involved in numerous initiatives including the Go Eng-Girl series in Ontario. Most recently she created the INWES Education and Research Institute which supports charitable outreach and best practices for under-represented groups.
“She is a truly remarkable individual.”
Meanwhile, Frize says she’s honoured some of her colleagues nominated her and she’s looking forward to having the chance to thank them at the ceremony next month.
“This year has been quite amazing,” she says.
And it’s not over yet.