Engineering program a passport to great things

Annika Palm is looking forward to a career in environmental engineering, after learning to say ‘yes’ to the unexpected at school.
Edmonton—The University of Alberta is considered to have a fairly large geographic area with the North Campus alone covering 50 square blocks. Yet Annika Palm went well beyond those boundaries, managing to travel thousands upon thousands of kilometres en route to her degree in environmental engineering.

During her first year of studies Palm, who grew up in the small town of Rimbey, Alberta, travelled to Hamilton, Ontario with the Faculty of Engineering’s Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race team. During her second year, she worked in the far North as an instructor with the faculty’s DiscoverE engineering, science and technology outreach program in Tuktoyaktuk, Inuvik, and at Fort Chipewyan, in northern Alberta. As a Junior Fellow with the U of A chapter of Engineers Without Borders, she ventured to Malawi on an international development exchange; she also attended EWB retreats in Calgary and Rocky Mountain House.

The kilometres she logged are emblematic of her academic journey as well—Palm admits she didn’t know much about engineering until about the second year of her program. As a Grade 12 student she attended the faculty’s open house and chatted with students in EWB and on the GNCTR team, who helped fill in some of the blanks.

“I started getting the idea from them that engineering is more than crunching numbers behind a desk, that you can apply it in a number of ways, and I went into engineering thinking that in the end I probably didn’t want to do engineering, but I did want to do something challenging and engineering was going to be a solid foundation for anything,” she said.

That changed.

“When I began studying environmental engineering, I got pretty excited and discovered there was maybe more to this work than I thought.”

Palm says the more she explored, the more she discovered there is to engineering.

“I kept coming across all these opportunities and embracing them and pursuing them,” she said of her active extra-curricular student life. “It’s amazing how quickly one opportunity leads to another. I knew zero people when I started here and as soon as you get involved with something, you start meeting people.

“I’ve been asked what I would do if I could start university all over again and I would still take environmental engineering.”

After taking the summer off, Palm will be joining Urban Systems, an engineering consulting firm. As an engineer in training, Palm expects she will be exposed to a wide variety of engineering challenges. And she feels prepared to meet them.

If she has any advice for students entering the Faculty of Engineering it is to get involved with whatever interests you.

“Before I started, I heard a lot of people saying: ‘Oh engineering is really hard.’ So I came in slightly terrified and I think it might have helped if I had come in with more confidence and less fear. I’d advise people to keep an open mind and be willing to say ‘yes’ to different opportunities.”