NSERC Chair for
Women in Science & Engineering

Lynne Cowe Falls

Dr. Lynne Cowe Falls

A willingness to find the way forward without being too 'in-your-face' strident.

Professor Emerita, Civil Engineering
University of Calgary

Lynne Cowe Falls, PhD, P.Eng. is Professor Emerita at the University of Calgary where she taught in two streams: materials and environmental engineering in the Department of Civil Engineering of the Schulich School of Engineering. Prior to joining the University of Calgary in 2001, Lynne had a 20+year career in consulting with an emphasis on the design, development and implementation of pavement, asset and infrastructure management systems in Canada and the USA. She is a prolific author and award-winning teacher and has been elected as a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada and a Fellow of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering.

As the Schulich School of Engineering’s inaugural Director of Students, Lynne was responsible for student success programming and she developed the Maier Student Leadership Program, which provided leadership training for self-identified leaders within the school’s 30+ clubs, teams and associations. Over 600 students have been involved in the program through conferences, speakers, lunch and learns and, coaching. Stemming from this program, Lynne has developed a research interest in the effectiveness and efficacy of soft-skills education within the constraints of an engineering curriculum. Lynne is a member of the American Society of Engineering Education and recently retired from the board of the Transportation Association of Canada where she served for 10 years as Vice-President, Members-at-large.

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

Working with the students and watching them grow academically, professionally and emotionally

What are you researching and what excites you about it?

Engineering leadership.

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

Engineering management with an emphasis on Civil.

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

Yes and with a strong sense of humour. Tact, diplomacy and a willingness to find the way forward without being too 'in-your-face' strident.

How do you foster and encourage diversity in your workplace?

By being open and welcoming to all and actively mentoring young academics (of all genders and cultures).

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

Easy access to the inner workings of a research lab. Expose young children (all children) to what is possible at a post-secondary institution (college and university). Programs that bring the elementary school students into the labs are as important as bringing the junior high students. We have to encourage the boys as well as the girls.

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

You are capable of anything when you put your mind to it.

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

My parents (a nurse and engineer) who taught me two things: I was able to do anything, and whatever it was I chose, I should try to be the best at it, regardless of what it was. My Mum used to say, if you want to be in medicine (which I am not) don't try to be the nurse, try to be the doctor. She was a war-trained English nurse whose only option was nursing, not doctoring.