Minerva Mentoring Award 2015
“Be curious, ask a lot of questions, don’t be afraid to try, even if it doesn’t work.”
So says Dr. Lisa Carter, the Dean of Science and Technology at Athabasca University and the 2015 Minerva Mentoring Award winner, as her advice to someone thinking of pursuing a science career.
Although born in Manitoba, Carter grew up in Australia and remembers being fascinated with science as a child. “My family had friends who let me borrow a very old microscope with specimen collections,” Carter said. “I think they were originally in late 1800s. I would spend hours and hours looking at the specimens provided with it.”
While growing up, Carter names Mr. Dawe, her teacher for grades 4 to 6, and Miss Prowse, her high school math teacher, as inspiring mentors. Mr. Dawe imparted the traits of integrity, personal ethics, and celebrating successes throughout the class, in addition to the literary and numeracy skills he taught. Miss Prowse’s intelligence and tips on how to advance in the world as a female were inspiring to Carter, and she “always emphasised that if there is anything you wanted to aspire to, you can reach new heights.”
Carter chose a STEM career for herself as it was an area of strength in school and she has “always been curious and never stopped asking questions.” She obtained both her BSc. with Honours in Science (specializing in Microbiology) and PhD in Immunology from the University of New South Wales, deciding upon that specialty of microbiology, immunology, cell biology and biochemistry as she “liked learning about new science, and it was a great fit.”
As the Dean of Science and Technology at Athabasca University, Carter is responsible for the Centre for Science, the School of Computing and Information Systems, and the Centre for Architecture. Her typical day involves attending and chairing different meetings, supervising staff and working with the three Centres above, generating reports and overseeing budgets, and dealing with students’ needs in regards to programs and courses.
“Science opens up opportunities to work in a lot of interesting professions. You can apply skills in different areas. It doesn’t have to be only working in a lab. The one thing I love about my career is that I can translate my training in different areas. It’s all about making a difference and giving back to others.”
Apart from her work at Athabasca University, Carter is involved with the Bridge for Engineering, Science, and Technology Talent (BESTT), a non-profit program that connects qualified individuals and companies seeking those qualified professionals for positions in science, engineering, and technology. She has also interacted with MentorUP in both Calgary and Edmonton, and is the current Project Director for Learning Communities. That program seeks to assist learners in rural communities of northern Alberta in developing the capacity to create, foster, and support learning opportunities, and hopes to aid the communities in creating viable futures for themselves, benefiting both the individual and the community.
“Today, everything is possible for kids,” Carter said, in response to a question about challenges kids face in discovering science careers. “There are so many opportunities, outreach activities and greater appreciation of science and technology. We offer neat science camps for kids in the greater Athabasca area. From constructing robots or drones, to learning about gold panning, insects or ecology or geology, we bring kids closer to appreciating how science transcends different disciplines.”