sarah harris

Canadian Manufacturers & Experts helps manufacturers grow. We strive to provide our future workforce with the opportunity to discover their potential. We do this by connecting them with industry professionals and building bridges from the classrooms to industry. We help learners of all ages to apply their knowledge in real life and explore all possible career pathways manufacturing has to offer. This fall, we sat down with Sarah Harris, engineering student and recipient of CME’s Women in Manufacturing scholarship to learn more about what manufacturing means to her.

 

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF.

My name is Sarah Harris. I have always wanted to dedicate my work to solving social, environmental and economic issues. The manufacturing industry is vital to supporting each of these causes.

 

HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH MANUFACTURING?

My exposure to design and additive manufacturing started in school. My work study experiences in the medical field have inspired me to continue with my studies in biomedical engineering and manufacturing.

 

WHAT IS BIOMEDICAL MANUFACTURING?

Manufacturing medical devices – things that are used for medical purposes. There is a very wide range – swabs for coronavirus testing, artificial joints, ultrasound systems and software for diagnostic tools. Essentially, any tool or technology that is used by people like doctors and patients for medical purposes.

 

WHAT WERE YOUR FAVOURITE COURSES IN HIGH SCHOOL?

Calculus, physics, biology, and English. The things that were most applicable were calculus and physics, but communication is a surprisingly big part of the job. Providing clear instructions and communicating information accurately to workers is extremely important. That said, a less than perfect score in English class isn’t a barrier – it’s just that doing well is an advantage.

 

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR UNIVERSITY PROGRAM.

I am pursuing a degree in biosystems engineering as a student in the faculty of engineering at the University of Manitoba. I have chosen to specialize in biomedical engineering within the biosystems program.

 

HOW LONG IS YOUR PROGRAM?

It’s usually five years at the University of Manitoba, Faculty of Engineering. Once you’re admitted to the faculty you can choose your path or department. To get into the program, you need good grades in calculus and physics but it’s helpful to focus on all of the maths and sciences.

 

WHAT DO YOU LEARN ABOUT IN ENGINEERING?

In my first year, I was exposed to a little bit of each department, you take courses like design, electrical, computer, and thermodynamics. Following first year students apply into a department within the faculty – electrical, civil, mechanical, biosystems, etc. I chose biosystems engineering and within that, I am in the biomedical specialization.

 

WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU WANTED TO GET INTO MANUFACTURING?

My “aha” moment was my co-op job with Orthopedic Innovation Centre (OIC) – where I had the chance to observe a surgery. The manufacturing and design process is so important to patient outcomes. Understanding how material, medical device testing, and quality control can impact a patient dramatically was amazing. I also learned a lot about how quality control and design can make devices and health outcomes better and ultimately how manufacturing can influence lives.

 

DESCRIBE YOUR WORK EXPERIENCE AS A STUDENT.

I was fortunate enough to receive an internship with the OIC in Winnipeg, which aims to improve the quality of orthopedic treatments and performs standardized testing for new medical devices, and implant retrieval analysis. During my internship with the OIC, I became familiar with industry standards for medical devices, additive manufacturing and 3D modeling, and gained hands on experience with the powerful joint simulator machinery.

This summer, I also worked for Precision ADM. The department I worked in was 3D printing nasopharyngeal swabs used to test patients for coronavirus. I had the chance to see a manufacturer going above and beyond to support public health in a pandemic. I was proud to be a part of that work.

 

DID YOU HAVE ANY MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT MANUFACTURING?

I definitely had a very different picture than what it looks like. In high school, I had zero exposure to manufacturing and engineering. I pictured people making things, mostly men – not high tech at all. I also had no idea about all the other components that go into making a product, like quality, managing and designing processes – the science behind things.

Manufacturing is making things but it’s the bigger picture of what goes into everything that makes it so interesting. I had a preconception of a dark, dingy warehouse, which is not the case. As an engineering student, getting to see industrial scale 3D technologies in action helped me see that manufacturing takes many different forms. I worked in an incredibly clean space, which is critical in medical manufacturing. It was a pristine working environment.

 

WHAT ACCOMPLISHMENTS ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF THUS FAR?

It is hard to pin point one accomplishment, engineering has been a long road and I am close to graduation now! I am most proud of the work and hours that I have put in at school and during my co-op terms. University is difficult but it is the small successes over the years that have made it worth it.

In 2018 I had the opportunity to travel to Ottawa as a part of the CME gala and meet the Minister of Science Innovation and Technology, and the Minister of Women and Gender Equality. This was a proud and exciting moment in my engineering career thus far. Additionally, contributing to the manufacturing of nasopharyngeal swabs for coronavirus testing, learning about medical device testing, and observing joint replacement surgeries were definitely highlights!

In my first year in the faculty of engineering I attended student run conferences at McGill and Western University as a delegate from the University of Manitoba. These were wonderful and confidence boosting experiences for me. I made lots of friends and ended up co-founding a student group. I co-founded the Women of Manitoba Engineering Network (WOMEN), a student group that aims to promote opportunities for female identifying engineering students at the University of Manitoba in my first year of engineering. I believe it is important to empower female-identifying students and promote engineering and manufacturing as careers. I would like to say thank you to the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters for empowering young women like myself to follow their ambitions in this industry.

 

WHAT WILL YOU DO ONCE YOU ARE FINISHED SCHOOL?

Now that I have some experience through co-op IP, I’ve learned that I really enjoy quality engineering and management. I would like to stay in quality engineering and in manufacturing, since it is aligned with skills I like to use. Specifically, I’d like to manufacture or test for medical devices.

 

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUNGER YOU?

Don’t be afraid of trying something out of your comfort zone. Do more of it; it will prove to be the right decision. I heard things like, “you don’t seem like an engineer” a lot, but trust your gut and don’t be afraid of challenging stereotypes. Explore everything.

 

To learn more about Sarah and read other stories like hers, as well as to explore the different opportunities manufacturing has to offer, visit CME-MEC.CA/YOUTH today!