NSERC Chair for
Women in Science & Engineering

Dr. Ania Ulrich

I love teaching and mentoring undergraduate and graduate students.

Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Associate Dean (Outreach)
University of Alberta

Dr. A.C. Ulrich, Ph.D., P.Eng. is a Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering and Associate Dean (Outreach) in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Alberta. Dr. Ulrich has worked on developing non-invasive biological remediation techniques for contaminated soil and groundwater. Dr. Ulrich’s work has dealt with contaminated sites in the United States, Ontario, and Alberta, most notably the Lake Wabamun CN derailement, Alberta’s oil sands and their water management practices and Indigenous communities and their relationship to water. Dr. Ulrich’s outreach work focuses on improving student access to and success in the engineering program at the University of Alberta.

As an academic, what is your favourite part of your job?

I love teaching and mentoring undergraduate and graduate students. Watching students find what motivates and inspires them gets me up in the morning.

What are you researching and what excites you about it?

I use non-invasive biological techniques to clean up contaminated soil and groundwater. I love the simplicity and beauty of using techniques inspired by nature to help improve our quality of life. Human’s tend to overcomplicate problem solving, while nature finds the path of simplicity and least resistance, thus creating the best solution. I get most excited about the impact of my work. I can touch an individual's life or a community’s by providing them with clean water to drink or a safe environment for their families to live. That impact is priceless.

What types of professions can students graduating in your field enter?

Students graduating in my field can work as environmental engineers for consulting firms in environmental remediation, for a city developing water treatment strategies, for private sector companies to manage their environmental impact, for government to put into place policy for environmental regulations or enforcing practices, and non-government agencies to draw attention to critical environmental needs.

Is your workplace male-dominated? If so, how do you negotiate being a woman in a male-dominated workplace and/or field?

Yes, my workplace is male-dominated. By becoming aware and educated on the issues that arise in such scenarios, having an open mind and actively listening to others and their concerns, finding a peer group where I can find support to talk about these issues.

How do you foster and encourage diversity in your workplace?

I have an amazing platform as an Associate Dean, Outreach to truly foster and encourage diversity in the workplace. Some of the initiatives have included developing outreach programs that specifically encourage under-represented youth into engineering, creating surveys to measure supports needed for undergraduate students, developing mentorship teams to support students prior to coming on campus and then during their time on campus, and working with faculty to raise awareness around these issues.

What kinds of systemic support could institutions provide to help encourage girls and women to pursue careers in science and engineering?

1) A strong, positive and supportive message coming from leadership that demonstrates support for girls and women to pursue careers in engineering. 2) Having transparent supports for women in engineering undergrad - specific programming (workshops on how to deal with negative comments etc.), mentorship programs. 3) Working with faculty to educate them on how to interact with the women in undergrad.

What advice would you give to girls or young women who are interested in careers in science or engineering?

Go for it. It is such a rewarding career. Find a safe place and group where you can share your insecurities and worries since we all have them throughout our journey.

As a professional in science or engineering, who are your role models and mentors?

I have actively sought out mentors who are in a role I aspire to be in one day. I find it is important to find role models and mentors who will lift me up, help me better and are honest with me as well. I have had both male and female role models and mentors and they have been important to me as counsel when making big decisions both personally and professionally.