NSERC Chair for
Women in Science & Engineering

Dr. Josephine M. Hill

Make implicit bias training mandatory for all hiring and promotion committees.

Professor, Chemical & Petroleum Engineering
University of Calgary

Dr. Josephine Hill is a Professor and Canada Research Chair in Hydrogen and Catalysis in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering of the Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary. She received her education and training at the University of Waterloo (BASc and MASc) and the University of Wisconsin–Madison (PhD) and worked for two years at Surface Science Western at the University of Western Ontario between her graduate degrees.

Dr. Hill’s research is in the area of catalysis with applications to fuel cells, hydrotreating, gasification, and the conversion of solid waste materials, such as petroleum coke and biomass, into catalysts supports and activated carbon.

She has worked with many companies and served on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Society of Chemical Engineering (CSChE). She is currently the Past Chair of the Canadian Catalysis Division of the Chemical Institute of Canada (CIC) and an Editor for the journal Applied Catalysis A: General. Her technical and mentoring achievements have been recognized through several awards including election to the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada, the Research Excellence Summit Award from APEGA, and the Award for the Support of Women in the Engineering Profession from Engineers Canada. Dr. Hill is a member of APEGA, CIC (CSChE), ACS and AIChE, and a Fellow of Engineers Canada and Geoscientists Canada

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

Discussing research results with my students, post-docs and collaborators. I love seeing graphs and tables, thinking how to explain the trends, and planning the next experiment.

What are you researching and what excites you about it?

I research catalysts, which are substances that increase the speed of reactions. My group develops, characterizes and tests catalysts from sustainable materials for a variety of applications including water treatment, hydrotreating and gasification. It fascinates me that such a small amount of material (i.e., the catalyst) can have such a tremendous impact on a process.

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

Catalysts are used in over 90% of all processes and so the opportunities for students trained in catalysis are broad from fuel cells to petrochemical plants.

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

Yes and sometimes it is quite exhausting (the assumptions that I am an office assistant, being talked over, the patronizing comments, etc.). I try to focus on the project at hand, ask when I need something, and call people out when they demonstrate a gender bias.

How do you foster and encourage diversity in your workplace?

Use gender inclusive language and alternate using "he" and "she" in everyday conversations. For hiring/tenure/grant committees, I ask people to explain why they ranked candidates in a specific order - do they have an implicit bias or is there a justification for this ranking?

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

Make implicit bias training mandatory for all hiring and promotion committees. Take the time to review promotional materials - do these materials represent and speak to a wide audience? Does the institution practice what it is preaching; is there a lack of diversity in the senior management?

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

Follow your passion but realize that you may have obstacles in your way. Get mentors who can help you negotiate these obstacles.

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

I have had many mentors along the way and I am thankful to all of them.