Allison Sibley is a technical officer at the National Research Council (NRC) in Ottawa ON. She got her BSc in Physics at Mount Allison University (she promises she didn't pick the school just because of the name) in Sackville, NB and an MSc in experimental laser process monitoring at Queen's in Kingston, ON. In her spare time she likes to bake (and eat) delicious treats, spend hours on Pinterest trying to find the perfect DIY project, and watch way more TV than is good for her.
Way back in the ancient days of grade 10, my father and I got into a huge fight, and I do mean huge. There was shouting and door slamming and lots of tears. Afterwards we didn’t speak for days. Why am I telling you about a long ago fight that has since been forgiven many times over, you ask? Well, because of the reason we were fighting.
It was time to pick my courses for my final two years of high school. Everything was going fine and I just had one slot left to fill. I wanted to take history, but my father, an engineer, wanted me to take physics. "You need to take 2 sciences," he said, "Don’t shut the door on your future." Naturally, since most of my exposure to physics came from movies, television, and hearing people say how much they hated physics in high school, I was VERY much so against this idea.
My stylish grade 11 self (check out those crocs) building a solar water pasteurizer over the summer
Obviously, since I’m telling you this story on a blog about women in STEM I eventually gave in and took physics. After the first class, I was hooked and I haven’t looked back. I just love figuring out why and how things behave the way they do! That’s not to say that there haven’t been times where I’ve struggled to stay motivated or thought about giving up on a problem or a project that seems to get more and more complicated the longer I work on it, but the moment when everything finally clicks is absolutely worth all of the pain of getting there!
Pretending to be much less scared than I actually was about to present the results of some of my early MSc research at Photonics North 2015 in Ottawa
Since the fight with my father and the discovery of my passion for science, I have completed both a BSc and MSc in physics and am currently working at the NRC in the Measurement Science and Standards division. Although I definitely get to do some neat science every day at the NRC, the coolest project I’ve worked on was during my MSc. My project was all about using lasers to observe the surface of molten metal (melted with a completely different laser) during 3D printing. Since the kind of 3D printer we wanted to work with is crazy expensive, we actually had to build our own! It wasn’t fancy, but it got the job done. In fact, we were some of the first people to measure the extent of the melt, which sounds boring and easy, but trust me it wasn’t! Even though I finished my part of the project, the work is continuing on and the hope is that this technology will help improve the quality and reliability of metallic 3D printing!
The (accidentally) super artsy photo I took of the first thing we built with our homemade 3D printer
I should wrap things up before I get too excited and end up rewriting my whole thesis telling you about how great 3D printing is (always leave them wanting more)! But before I do, a little bit of advice for anyone who is even a little bit considering pursuing an education or career in STEM: just give it a go! You never know, you could find out that you love it!