EARLY SUCCESS AWARDED
She could have become an architect, and TV almost convinced her that law was the way to go. Instead, Dr. Shelley Lissel, P.Eng., found her niche in the engineering profession and the Schulich School of Engineering. Her peers and students are sure happy about that one.
BY FRANCINE MAXWELL
Less than a decade after earning her undergraduate degree, Dr. Shelley Lissel, P.Eng., has posted an impressive list of awards and accomplishments. It’s longer, in fact, than many people generate in a lifetime.
That pattern of achievement for the Schulich School of Engineering faculty member netted her the 2007 APEGGA Early Accomplishment Summit Award.
Her students like her methods, and she takes some of those methods beyond the campus, helping spread her interest in science and engineering to new generations of young achievers in the greater community.
However, hers didn’t start out as a career in engineering and teaching. Originally, Dr. Lissel wanted to be something entirely different.
“Until somewhere in Grade 10, I wanted to be a lawyer. L.A. Law and other television shows like that were very influential,” says Dr. Lissel, an associate professor and associate head at the University of Calgary engineering school. “Then much to my engineering father’s dismay, I thought maybe architecture school might be something I’d prefer.
“But after checking into that, I found out you needed a degree to get in, and that one of the preferred degrees was engineering. So I decided that I might as well get one.
“If nothing else I’d have something to fall back on.”
I like showing the different sides of engineering, not just
the mechanics of it.– Dr. Shelley Lissel, P.Eng.
She needn’t have worried about fall-back options. After choosing civil engineering over mechanical, things just fell into place, as if engineering and teaching were meant to be.
“Originally, I wasn’t interested in grad school at all. I wanted to take some time off, maybe work for a while. But the department head at the time encouraged me to come out for graduate school. I went and checked it out right then and decided to do it.
“He then convinced me to do my PhD. That led to getting the NSERC University Faculty Award, and that led me to teaching.”
Dr. Lissel teaches first- and fourth-year engineering students, and her methods and style have made her popular with them. Her Schulich faculty awards include a service excellence award and a teaching excellence award, and she was also named the school’s Professor of the Year in 2006.
“I try to make courses interesting for students. The first years, sometimes this is their first introduction to applied science, which can be a huge challenge. It can be pretty tough for them. But I love it when I can see that they get it, that they understand. It’s very satisfying.”
Her aptitude for teaching has extended beyond the campus. Dr. Lissel is a frequent volunteer who brings the fun of science to younger generations. She has been a presenter at the Calgary Science Network’s elementary and junior high science symposiums. She’s helped host elementary science nights put on by APEGGA, spoken at local schools and been an active participant in community events such as Women in Engineering Day.
“I like showing the different sides of engineering, not just the mechanics of it.”
The architectural side of Dr. Lissel still makes its way to the surface.
Aside from having vacation albums bursting with photos of bridge and building
architecture, she is a member of the British Masonry Society. She also sits on
the board of directors for the Masonry Society in the United States.
The U.S. version of the society is a professional, technical, and educational association dedicated to the advancement of knowledge on masonry. Members are design engineers, architects, builders, researchers, educators, building officials, material suppliers, manufacturers, and others who want to contribute to and benefit from the global pool of knowledge on masonry.
She sits on two technical committees of the Canadian Standards Association, which provide guidelines to the masonry industry for the safe and economic design and construction of masonry structures.
“I guess this keeps me in design. Engineers don’t get involved in esthetic design as much as they probably could. Which is too bad. They have all the skills required to design, and not just execute a project.”
Good skills come from good teachers. If you need proof that Dr. Lissel’s dedication to her students is genuine, check out her summer plans.
Dr. Lissel will be putting together a classroom performance system — a series of tutorials with interactive questions students can answer at the click of a button. The system will be a gauge point for students to see if they’re understanding the class being taught, but it will also be one for teachers. They’ll see whether their students are following, and if not, why not.
“Students use clickers to answer a question. If the majority of the class answers incorrectly, the professor can then stop and say, OK, why did you choose that answer and not this answer. It’s interactive learning, and it promotes engagement in the classrooms.”
The system will be targeted at first-year engineering students and will encompass all the disciplines, not just Dr. Lissel’s area of expertise, which is masonry and structure.
The interactive tutorials will be one achievement in a first decade that’s proven fruitful and challenging. What does Dr. Lissel see coming in the next 10 years?
“I would like to do more consulting, more design. Perhaps not huge projects, but manageable ones that won’t interfere with my teaching.”
Sorry, Dad, but on some level architecture might win out, after all.
The Early Accomplishment Award recognizes exceptional achievement in the
early years of a professional career as an engineer, geologist or geophysicist.