Women in STEM: Julie Van de Valk, Geological Engineering

"I want to bring solving engineering problems outside of the scope of technical work, to include a deeper understanding of social and environmental context."

“I want to bring solving engineering problems outside of the scope of technical work, to include a deeper understanding of social and environmental context.”

Original Feature


Why did you decide to choose UBC for your degree?

I chose UBC because it was the perfect combination of everything I was looking for in a University! It has a phenomenal academic reputation, programs that I find very interesting, interdisciplinary opportunities, a fantastic location in Vancouver, lots of opportunities for outdoor exploration and a great student community.

What are some of the most memorable moments from your time in the program?

My degree and time at UBC as a Loran Scholar is full of incredible moments and new experiences which I never anticipated and which I will remember and continue to learn from for a long time to come! My academic experiences have been complemented by: fantastic classmates; leading a climate change activism group, sitting on UBC’s board of governors; experiences working in New Zealand, Cambodia, Kitimat, Prince Rupert and Vancouver and new things such as learning the accordion, backcountry skiing and completing an Olympic distance triathlon. These experiences have helped me have a fantastic experience at UBC and make more memories than I can count!

What are the most valuable things you have learned? And How do you feel a degree in engineering has benefitted (or will benefit) you compared to other fields of study?

The most valuable thing I learned from studying engineering at UBC is how to approach problems with a problem solving perspective. I learned many technical and soft skills, and developed the capacity to learn many more, but what I learned through this program that I think was special, was how to innovatively tackle and solve difficult problems. During my engineering degree I have walked into countless situations and projects armed with conceptual knowledge, but without a complete understanding of how to solve a problem. I have learned to translate that conceptual understanding into solutions to complex problems and I think that lesson will prove invaluable.

What advice would you give a student considering engineering?

If you are considering engineering, you should do it! If you like challenging yourself, working hard, learning conceptsand applying them to solve problems, working with fantastic peers, and developing the ability to change the world around you, then engineering is for you!

How will you go on to make a difference in our world?

I will make a difference in our world by combining technical knowledge with an understanding of the larger context of technical problems. I want to bring solving engineering problems outside of the scope of technical work, to include a deeper understanding of social and environmental context. I think this approach will ensure that engineering solutions are designed to meet the needs of our changing and complex world.