NSERC Chair for
Women in Science & Engineering

Sylvie Quideau

Sylvie Quideau

I always felt it was important to be assertive while remaining true to myself.

Professor, Soil Biogeochemistry
University of Alberta

Sylvie Quideau is a Soil Biogeochemistry Professor with the Department of Renewable Resources. She received her BSc (Environmental Sciences) from Pierre and Marie Curie University, Paris VI, her MSc (Chemical Engineering) from the University of Manchester, and her PhD (Soil Science) from the University of Wisconsin. As a post-doc, she worked at the University of California-Riverside. She joined the University of Alberta in 2002. Her research program is aimed at: quantifying the underlying environmental factors controlling soil organic matter accumulation and stability; relating measurable organic matter quality indices to ecosystem functioning; and predicting the response of soil organic matter to natural and anthropogenic disturbance.

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

Working with my research group is the most rewarding part of my job.

What are you researching and what excites you about it?

My research program is based on soil organic matter, which continues to fascinate me. One focus of my work has been to quantify the impact of environmental factors on organic matter accumulation and distribution in soils.

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

Many of my MSc students now work for environmental consulting companies. Others are employed as government environmental scientists. My PhD students typically stay in academia and have either secured postdoctoral or tenure-track faculty positions.

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

This is an interesting question. A majority of undergraduate students are female, yet the gender ratio changes at higher levels, and most of my colleagues are male. As a woman in a male-dominated workplace, I always felt it was important to be assertive while remaining true to myself.

How do you foster and encourage diversity in your workplace?

As much as possible, I encourage an open dialogue with and among all students, and embrace all backgrounds through understanding and respect.

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

I am a big supporter of programs such as the “Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science and Technology” (WISEST) summer program at the University of Alberta, which encourages Grade 11 students to gain knowledge about career opportunities in science by offering them first-hand experience in research laboratories.

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

I would give them the same advice as I would to anybody; pursue what you feel most passionate about.