NSERC Chair for
Women in Science & Engineering

Jane Batcheller

Dr. Jane Batcheller

Pursue education and open up as many potential avenues as possible for yourself.

Faculty Service Officer, Textile and Apparel Science
Department of Human Ecology
University of Alberta

Dr. Jane Batcheller is an instructor in Textile Science in the Department of Human Ecology at the University of Alberta. Since 2010, she has been the Principal Investigator of the Protective Clothing and Equipment Research Facility (PCERF) at the University of Alberta. Her research interests include the degradation of textile materials, thermal protective clothing, and textiles in archaeology. Recent publications include a book chapter in the 2nd edition of the Handbook of Technical Textiles, co-authored with Dr. Betty Crown, on technical textiles for personal thermal protection.

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

Teaching undergraduate students is my favourite part of the job. I find natural textile fibres especially fascinating and I enjoy seeing students share this fascination as they learn more about them during lab activities. I especially enjoy working with students in the labs with all the specialized textile equipment for identifying, testing, and evaluating fibres and fabrics.

What are you researching and what excites you about it?

I love solving problems and my research allows me to do this every day.

Currently I’m involved in a project to evaluate the effectiveness of industrial drycleaning to keep coveralls clean for workers in oil and gas industries. My research interests fall within three main areas: Protective Clothing and Equipment, Textile Analysis and Care, and Archeological Textiles. As the Principal Investigator of the Protective Clothing and Equipment Research Facility (PCERF), I oversee research conducted to address the conflicting phenomena of protection and comfort. Such research includes assessing the physiological strain (comfort or lack thereof) of protective clothing, and evaluating fabric performance against hot liquid, steam, and flame hazards.

I supervise the work of the Textile Analysis Service (TAS), which was established in 1970. TAS conducts textile testing and analysis for the public, and carries out research related to textile serviceability problems and standardized textile testing. In addition, TAS provides an educational service for the department, by providing current examples of textile serviceability problems for classes, and by employing textile science students part-time to assist with testing and analysis. My background includes an MA and PhD in Textile Archaeology from the University of Manchester. I am very interested in textile fibre microscopy, and have published articles related to the identification of animal hair fibres in ancient Roman-Egyptian textiles.

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

Textile and apparel science students work for government agencies in the areas of clothing and textile development, procurement and evaluation (e.g. clothing for the military, first responders, RCMP etc.). They also have careers with Health Canada and work on the development of standards for consumer textile products. In the textile industry, graduates work as purchasing agents and merchandisers, or managers of textile product development, quality assurance and testing. Many grads also pursue advanced degrees and continue to do research in textiles and related fields.

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

Historically, the field of textile science has been male-dominated, but it is much less so today. Human Ecology, which encompasses textiles at the University of Alberta, is not a male-dominated field. I’m fortunate that I’ve never experience discrimination in my workplace or field of research.

How do you foster and encourage diversity in your workplace?

I wholly embrace the commitment of the University of Alberta to diversity in the workplace and in education. Everyone is welcomed and treated equally in my classes and on my research projects.

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

The University of Alberta has a great program called WISEST (Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science and Technology). I have been involved in this program as a volunteer and supporter of the annual Choices Conference for grade six girls. Continued support for organizations like WISEST is needed and expansion to other institutions across Canada should also be supported. Funding and scholarships for women are also hugely important to encourage advanced education, especially when the cost of education is so high.

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

Don’t be afraid to try something new. There are a great many fascinating possibilities out there. There’s nothing stopping you from doing anything you set your mind to. You may not know yet where your interests lie, so look widely at many fields. Pursue education and open up as many potential avenues as possible for yourself.

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

My parents, who encouraged gender equality in all things, got me started on my career. My mom was a university grad and I wanted to be just like her, so my plans for university formed early in my life. My dad was an engineer and welcomed my help on projects he had going around our home. I was always holding something while he worked. He never missed an opportunity to explain what he was doing and I lapped it up. I loved being present while he took things apart and fixed them. If I had an idea, he listened and encouraged me as his equal. These interactions gave me incredible satisfaction and confidence.

My University professor and supervisor, Dr. Nancy Kerr, was my mentor in textile science and continues to guide me to this day. She is a very modest person and never one for self-promotion, but she and her accomplishments are well-known and highly regarded by those in the field. She’s always been a wonderful resource for me and my go-to-person when I want to talk through ideas. She has numerous teaching awards and has worked tirelessly over her career to bring out the best in her students. She has an amazing ability to break down complex theories into manageable components. I try to emulate her teaching style, including garments and fabrics as visual aids and incorporating as many lab activities as possible into my classes so that students learn by doing.