2022 Women in Engineering & Geoscience Champion Award Recipient

This award is presented to members of APEGA in recognition of exceptional achievement as a champion of women in engineering and geoscience.

Dr. Qiao Sun, P.Eng., FCAE

Dr. Qiao Sun: 2022 recipient of the Women in Engineering & Geoscience Champion Award
As an engineering undergraduate student, professional engineer Qiao Sun, PhD, was among a small minority of women at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China, where she earned her mechanical engineering degree. There were even fewer in the master’s program she pursued after that. Even so, she never considered her gender a barrier because all she had to do was perform well in exams. 
In Canada, to where she was drawn in 1992 by its international reputation for robotics research, she felt there was a lot of pressure and societal expectation for women to stick to roles assigned to their gender and to shy away from exploring unconventional paths. She also saw stereotypes and unconscious bias play a significant role in the choices and decisions people made. 
After earning her doctorate in mechanical engineering at the University of Victoria in 1996, she moved eastward to become a professor at the University of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering. Now the head of the school’s mechanical and manufacturing engineering department, she also served as the school’s senior associate dean of equity, diversity, and inclusion between 2014 and 2020.
Spurred by her experience as a female student in a male-dominated environment, she dedicates herself to bringing inclusive and supportive teaching practices into her classroom. After realizing her female students were less likely to ask questions, she developed online tutorials with interactive lessons to supplement student learning before online platforms became widespread. The unique intent—and positive outcome—of the tutorials was to reduce the weight of social dynamics she believed negatively and disproportionally affected her female students.
Dr. Sun also recognizes the remarkable influence participation in high school physics has on achieving greater gender parity in post-secondary engineering classes. In partnership with MindFuel and the Calgary Board of Education, she led a multi-year research project on gender differences in physics learning with the goal of increasing the participation of girls in physics classrooms.
For the passionate advocate, the case for diversity is undeniable: “It contributes to creativity and innovation, and it makes design and policy more robust,” she advises. At the same time, embracing diversity isn’t just a good thing, but the right thing. “Everyone deserves equal opportunity."