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Sen. Rosa Galvez on Engineers and Accountability

Senator Rosa Galvez
Senator Rosa Galvez

Mediaplanet spoke with Senator Rosa Galvez, FCSCE, former Dean of the Department of Civil and Water Engineering at Laval University, to discuss engineers’ responsibility to protect the public and improve Canadians’ quality of life.

Mediaplanet: How did you discover your passion for engineering?

Rosa Galvez: I became interested in the field because my grandfather was an architect. I was inspired by his ability to design — he didn’t receive university training, he just knew his stuff. I remember helping him in those plans, doing some calculations, and going to the field to do some of it. Soon, I started liking the idea of being an engineer because of how many concepts you apply to the real world.

Senator Rosa Galvez, FCSCE

Why did you choose to become an environmental engineer?

Pollution problems have always worried me — air pollution due to gas emissions, poor drinking water, or inadequate waste management. Engineering can offer many solutions to pollution problems because the engineering field evolves in parallel with science and knowledge acquisition.

What are some of the most fulfilling projects you’ve worked on?

I have worked in the restoration of contaminated lakes in Canada and around the world, studying excess nutrients causing proliferation of toxic algae. For example, in Canada, we use de-icing salts that change the chemistry and biology of freshwater lakes which then affects multiple facets of the lake’s environment. I developed eco-processes that use natural materials to capture contaminants and plants that can degrade or filter contaminants. I am very proud that the engineered units I developed and proposed have been used in various sites around the world.

Diverse leadership is so important because leaders can bring everybody, the best capacities and the best abilities, together.

Why is it important to foster diversity and inclusion in engineering?

We humans have one type of brain. When we see the brain, mine is the exact same as a person of colour or a man — we all have the same capacities. We will always go farther in our objectives when we go as a group. We are all crafted and all have talents. Diverse leadership is so important because leaders can bring everybody, the best capacities and the best abilities, together. That’s why, for me, it is very important.

How has the field changed in recent years?

Years ago, our role as engineers stopped at the operational level. We were planning, constructing, and operating only, but now engineers have to be conscious that our main responsibility is to protect the public and the quality of life of citizens. That has to drive our work. Engineers have to think that our infrastructure has a lifetime of its own, so we have to take care of what’s going to happen in decades to come. We have to think holistically.

Traditionally, we’ve seen that engineers occupy positions where there are multiple stakeholders. There are times where we manage resources, materials, equipment, and budgets. When we are in these situations, sometimes there are opportunities to take advantage of the situation, but we have to be very, very mindful of ethics.

Senator Rosa Galvez, FCSCE

What advice do you have for aspiring engineers?

I have so many things to tell them. Be an independent thinker. You have to keep learning because technology changes, so you have to stay up-to-date. Also, work your network because the outlook of a network is always better than the outlook of just one person. Be ethical. Have your moral principles. Speak out and be a leader, whoever you are.

Why is it important to continue to foster Canada’s innovative ecosystem?

This generation is living through important societal changes. We are experiencing a fourth industrial revolution where the decarbonization of our economy is becoming crucial to the protection of our environment. This revolution needs to be propelled by innovation and science. Fortunately, the engineering field is well-positioned to advance this shift towards a cleaner society. 

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