Laura Douglas, Engineering and HVAC Manager at Canada’s Level 4 Labs

Canada’s only Containment Level 4 labs (CL4) are at the Canadian Science Centre for Human and Animal Health in Winnipeg. Level 4 labs work with highly dangerous and exotic infectious diseases.

Laura Douglas is the Controls System Engineer and Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Manager at the Canadian Science Centre for Human and Animal Health (CSCHAH) in Winnipeg, MB. Her team is responsible for the building systems that keep the lab safe, and secure, while making sure research operations don’t miss a beat.

Laura DouglasLaura’s skill set is rare. She’s a manufacturing engineer who knows the ins and outs of critical building systems. Essentially, she looks at how the systems work and develops ways to improve them. When issues arise, she coordinates the resources to contain the system and works to find out what went wrong.  “These aren’t textbook situations, the answers are not laid out, and you have to figure it out.”  

Fortunately, everyone on her team brings a different perspective and together they have kept the facility at its world-class status for 20 years. Her team’s collaboration with the scientists and researchers at the science centre is an essential part of their success.  They work hard to make sure the building meets all regulatory standards so that the innovative discoveries don’t get interrupted.

Laura is also an advocate for STEM gender parity, a mother of three and a primary caregiver to an elderly parent. Laura is passionate about her work and is no stranger to late nights and calls on the weekends. The dynamic troubleshooting aspect of her job keeps her motivated. “It’s one of those jobs where you never have to look at the clock,” she says.

Plot twists are never-ending in her STEM journey but in every chapter, Laura has been inspired by the stories of other women in the workforce. Her motto is “it’s okay to say no.”  It helps her maintain a work-life balance. However, she wants more women to say yes to STEM. “Currently less than 13% of practicing engineers are female… it’s really important for young women to see their value in how they can contribute to a better world – starting with the ability to engineer the way we live.”

Laura actively promotes the 30 by 30 campaign which is an initiative led by Engineers Canada to increase the percentage of newly female licensed engineers to 30% by 2030. Find out more here.

She wants to encourage other women to mentor the next generation and share their stories with honesty and openness. Laura is excited to volunteer with the Canadian/Manitoba Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science, Trades, and Technology (CCWESTT/MCWESTT) conference in Winnipeg, May 2019. This conference will give women in STEM opportunities to network and collaborate with their peers. The National CCWESST Biannual Conference is in Edmonton this year. Attend and say YES to STEM today.

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