Engineering community applauds choice of Julie Payette as Governor General

Canada’s engineering community salutes the appointment of Quebec-based engineer and astronaut Julie Payette, ing., as the next Governor General of Canada.

The 53-year-old, who is a graduate of McGill University and University of Toronto engineering programs, and the second Canadian woman to take part in the NASA space shuttle program, was announced as the next Governor General on July 13. She succeeds David Johnson, who held the position since 2010 and steps down in September 2017.

Kathy Baig, ing., president of the Ordre des Ingénieurs de Québec (OIQ), says the appointment of Payette as Governor General is a boost to the engineering profession in Quebec and across Canada.

“The appointment of an engineer from Quebec to the prestigious position of Governor General of Canada is a source of pride for the entire profession,” Baig told Engineering Dimensions July 25. “Julie Payette has always been a great ambassador for engineering. Her outstanding career and accomplishments are a great source of inspiration for young people in science and technology, especially for women. As the new Governor General of Canada, she will be able to continue her work to promote science and technology to Canadians.”

Payette joined the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) in 1992. She was a crew member on the Space Shuttle Discovery mission in 1999, and was the first Canadian to board the International Space Station. Her main responsibility on the space station was to operate the Canadarm unit, one of the CSA’s greatest contributions to the international space program.

Payette also served as a mission specialist on the 2009 Space Shuttle Endeavour expedition, where she acted as flight engineer and lead robotic operator.

Overall, she has logged more than 610 hours in space before retiring from the CSA in 2013.

Payette has long served as an advocate for women to become more involved in STEM pursuits.

In a July 17 statement, the CSA also welcomed Payette’s selection. “Ms. Payette has served the Canadian Space Agency and her country exceptionally well, both on the ground and in space for over two decades,” the CSA said. “Throughout her career as an astronaut, she was a tireless ambassador for science and technology. Ms. Payette visited schools across the country, encouraging young Canadians to view science as a means to contribute to society and to our planet.”

In a previous interview with Engineering Dimensions to discuss engineering contributions to Canada’s space program, Payette discussed the profession’s versatility: “I often say to young people when I talk about engineering that the profession is very large and encompassing. And what people learn at engineering school, at NASA, and in the aerospace industry translates immediately into a system of problem-solving, designing, looking at situations, and picking out the pertinent parameters. You learn this way of thinking and a way of noting problems and developing solutions. As well, you can apply this almost anywhere in the world, and that’s one reason why you can find engineers in hospitals, in business, in politics. It’s an approach that is useful practically anywhere.”

Payette was made a fellow of Engineers Canada in 2014 for her contributions to the engineering profession. She is also the 1994 recipient of the Engineers Canada Young Engineer Achievement Award and the 2010 Gold Medal Award.