UBC Reports | Vol.
50 | No. 10 | Nov.
The Next Generation of Women Scientists
UBC professor to head new NSERC / General Motors program
to boost women’s participation in science and engineering
Computer science professor Anne Condon has been named Chair
of a new program designed to increase the participation of
women in science and engineering in the B.C. and Yukon regions.
The $700,000 Chair for Women in Science and Engineering,
funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council
of Canada (NSERC) and General Motors of Canada, was announced
Oct. 18 by industry minister David Emerson and GM Canada president
Condon, a specialist in bioinformatics, biomolecular computation
and complexity theory, has led several successful outreach
programs designed to attract female students to science and
engineering programs and careers.
This includes the launch of a first-year UBC course in 2003
called Connecting with Computer Science, which she also teaches.
One of the first courses of its kind, it introduces computer
science through applications in fine arts, linguistics, music,
philosophy, psychology and biology.
Condon, 42, says she’s delighted to get the chance
to help involve more Canadian women in science and engineering,
especially in computational sciences.
“There is so much potential for technology to make
a positive difference in society -- in helping to cure diseases
or providing better educational tools for children -- and
we need women, as well as men, committed to working towards
these goals,” Condon says.
Her pioneering work has included heading a mentoring initiative
in the United States where approximately 70 female undergraduate
students spent a summer doing research under the supervision
of a female mentor. Many of these students later entered graduate
school in a related area. After coming to UBC in 1999, she
created the Focus on Women in Computer Science committee which
organizes activities to support female computer science students
and recruits more women, both faculty and students, to the
Condon has informally labeled her work to break down barriers
the Jade Project because jade is B.C.’s official gemstone,
renowned for its toughness and beauty.
As the new Chair for Women in Science and Engineering for
B.C. and the Yukon, Condon will create and disseminate educational
materials at the high school level, as well as provide funding
to the Canadian Distributed Mentor Project to enable outstanding
undergraduate computer science students to travel to a Canadian
research institution for a summer of research and mentoring.
Last year, NSERC invited proposals to fill chairs for women
in science and engineering in the Atlantic, Ontario, Prairie
and British Columbia regions. The University of Guelph’s
Dr. Valerie Davidson is the Chair for the Ontario region,
Dr. Cecilia Moloney of the Memorial University of Newfoundland
is the Chair for the Atlantic Region, and Dr. Claire Deschênes
of Université Laval occupies the Chair in Quebec. The
Prairie Chair remains to be filled.