Courtesy University of Toronto
Ever take apart a mechanical toy to see how the parts work? Do you tinker with gizmos or get a rush pondering physics problems? Is math your second language?
Maybe you should get in touch with your inner engineer. No longer is this field just about bridges and beams. It encompasses an astoundingly diverse set of specialties from nanotechnology to chemical, mechanical and biomedical design.
And lucky for those with nascent tech talent, the demand for graduates these days is growing, especially in the areas of environment and public policy.
Know as well that all those guy-heavy engineering stereotypes just don't wash any more. According to the Ontario Network of Women in Engineering, there were 10,268 female engineering undergraduates in Canada in 2009, 17 per cent of all engineering students, and many large tech companies that hire grads have put diversity policies in place.
Oh, and by the way, the CEO at Engineers Canada, our national regulating body, is a woman.
What they say about the job
"I'm an electrical engineer, which involves a lot of math and developing network models - how to put things together and make them work, which was an of mine interest as a kid. I studied power systems: power generation, distribution and transmission. I'm now the registrar at Professional Engineers Ontario, a self-regulating body with about 100 staff who deal with everything from infrastructure to nanotechnology.
"What's interesting is engineers getting engaged in public policy and trying to solve problems from a structured, methodical, technical approach. We've been trying to get engineers to run for elected positions and actually be at the decision-making table. We also run conferences and a policy engagement series at Queen's Park to bring policy-makers and engineers together."
KIM ALLEN, CEO and registrar of Professional Engineers Ontario and a graduate of the University of Ottawa, with an MBA from U of T.
"I got my degree in civil engineering, and when I graduated in the 60s there was a lot of expansion and need for infrastructure work such as roads, bridges and sewers. I worked on part of the Highway 401 expansion and also on the Yonge subway.
"After that I went into environmental engineering, which was not as predominant as it is today. I was one of the first to graduate in environmental sciences from Western. There's a lot to be done. Everyone talks about the green economy and alternative energy. The question is, what is green energy? Well, nuclear energy is as green as it comes. We need to do more research and innovation."
DANIEL J. YOUNG, acting CEO of Ontario Society of Professional Engineers and a graduate of McGill University, with an M.Eng from Western.
"I have a PhD from the University of Toronto in civil engineering. I've always been interested in environmental issues and the link between the environment and public health. I have an interest in keeping things clean and our planet livable.
"Drinking water's a fascinating area of work, in that it combines very strict science with public health, politics, social issues, economics.
"The environment is always going to be an issue, and there's a need to use the tools we have. One of those is technology, and engineering focuses on the technological side of the solution, but we're also integrating social tools into our solutions. You can't just do the equations - you have to bring people into the equation."
RON HOFMANN, assistant professor at U of T and a graduate of Concordia University, with a PhD from U of T. He is part of U of T's Drinking Water Research Group.
R. Jeanette Martin
Krista Palen is a green building community consultant.
"My background is in environmental engineering, which is all about air, water, energy and waste. As a green building and sustainable community consultant, I look at how each of these elements work with the others. My specialization is passive design, which is a way of developing solutions that maximize daylight, solar energy and natural ventilation.
"I consult with designers on architectural features that minimize energy use. I might recommend ways, for example, to bring in more daylight through skylights to reduce artificial lighting. Right now, buildings consume about 40 per cent of all energy used in North America. This is not necessary and can be reduced significantly through thoughtful design."
KRISTA PALEN, project associate and passive practice coordinator at Halsall Associates, and a graduate of University of Guelph and the Institute Without Boundaries. She enters Harvard's master's program next year.