University of Calgary

Arch Award winner Natalie Panek captivates audience with stories of extreme innovation

UToday HomeMay 23, 2013

By Nikki Reimer

Toronto-based aerospace engineer Natalie Panek, BSc’07.Toronto-based aerospace engineer Natalie Panek, BSc’07.“Going into mechanical engineering was my greatest, first leap.”

Natalie Panek spoke about innovating in extreme environments to a rapt audience of students and parents at Telus SPARK Centre’s HD Digital Dome Theatre on Friday.

Currently based in Toronto, Panek holds a bachelor of science with distinction in mechanical engineering and a master of applied science in aerospace engineering. Winner of a Calgary Alumni Association’s 2013 Arch Award, Panek spoke about the Schulich School of Engineering experiences that helped propel her into a successful career as an aerospace engineer at MDA Space Missions.

She began her talk with the catchy, “I play with robots,” (later clarified: “I play with space robots”). While recalling her participation on the university’s solar car team, Panek reminded the audience that although solar car technology is a decade old, engineers are now designing solar cars that people will actually want to drive. She also discussed the possibility of a solar airplane, and the logistics required for a mission to Mars.

Panek’s talk inspired a lively question and answer period. Several students lined up to speak to her afterwards, including an excited elementary-aged child who wanted an autograph, and a current female engineering student at the university.

Not content to only focus on her own success, Panek acts as a mentor through University of Calgary’s Cybermentor program, and regularly speaks at public events aimed at empowering women to pursue careers in science and technology.

Towards the close of her speech, she called on the media to showcase female scientists rather than reality stars, a role for which Panek has already proven herself more than capable.


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