Margaret Walsh has engineered a career in a field with boundless opportunities, including sharing her knowledge with others through teaching.
“I went to St. F.X. and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I took science courses. I did really well in certain courses, like physics and calculus,” the Cloverville, Antigonish County native said of her career path.
“I had some friends, who were a year ahead of me, in the engineering program and, just through hanging out with them, I learned a little bit more about engineering and decided that’s where I wanted to go.”
Walsh completed the two-year engineering diploma at St. F.X. before moving on to Halifax and the former Technical University of Nova Scotia (TUNS) – now Dalhousie – where she currently teaches.
“After graduating from TUNS, I went right into a master’s degree in Montreal, at McGill, and that was a program geared towards a specific industry – in chemical engineering,” she said.
From there, Walsh worked for about eight years in the Maritime pulp and paper industry.
She returned to the classroom in 2001 to complete her doctorate in civil engineering – water and waste water treatment – at Dalhousie.
Walsh noted she taught her first course at St. F.X., before she began her doctorate studies.
Since 2005, she has been a member of the Dal faculty, teaching civil and resource engineering.
“I love the students,” Walsh said, when asked about the appeal of teaching for her.
“It is always an exciting time of the year, in the fall, when everybody comes back.”
She noted “we work right through the year,” including the summer months.
“I teach, but I also have a research group, as well – graduate and undergraduate students – who work on different projects,” Walsh continued.
Describing teaching as “fun,” she noted her mother, Mary, is a retired teacher. Her father is the late Eugene Walsh.
“I had a lot of teachers in the family, which is, possibly, why I ended up taking that route,” Walsh said.
Along with teaching, she contributes in myriad other ways to the engineering field.
Recently, in honour of those efforts, Walsh received an award for the Advancement of Women in Engineering by Engineers Nova Scotia, which she called a “huge honour.”
“There are a lot of women – a lot of female engineers – who do a lot. Many of us are involved in different programs – outreach – and that type of thing,” she said.
“It is always nice to be recognized for those little things that you do, on the side, that you feel are important – as well as the many male engineers that we work with – to get more women in the field.”
Walsh talked more about women in engineering, a traditionally male-dominated field.
“It has definitely come a long way over the last 25 years or so,” she said.
“We find that girls are more aware of the profession – and we are always trying to recruit, both male and female, students into our program, as a very viable career option.”
Walsh added “we have come a long way.”
“We could still, always, improve, with the ratio between men and women in the field, but we see more and more women coming into the program all the time,” she said.
Walsh agreed opportunities in the field are boundless.
“You can work anywhere in the world with an engineering degree. It is a very portable career,” she said, noting “especially from a Canadian university.”
“We have very good programs across the country.”