Terri-Jane Yuzda


Showing Young Women
the Path to a Scientific Future

Sweet Gas
Students explore the ConocoPhillips Chocolate Reservoir, searching for whipped cream (gas) and raspberry filling (oil).

Public Relations Coordinator

What do you want to be when you grow up? It's a question students heardaily. Thanks to the enthusiasm of a group of dedicated female professionals, some female students in Calgary may now have an answer.

On May 8, 80 Grade 8 girls from various Calgary schools participated in the 13th annual Operation Minerva job shadowing day. Operation Minerva, a project of the Alberta Women's Science Network, encourages young women to follow career paths in science and technology by showing the wide range of opportunities available to them. Through meeting with positive female role models, the students are encouraged about what they can accomplish when they enter the workplace.

Host organizations for the day included the University of Calgary's Faculty of Engineering, Science Alberta Foundation, the Calgary Health Region and various oil and gas companies. At each location, visiting students were given a unique look at some of the careers women are excelling in.

At Landmark Graphics, 12 students played The Oil Game. This game has each student taking on the role of a geologist, a geophysicist, a land negotiator, an economist or a drilling engineer. They work together to discover how oil and gas is found and produced, while ensuring success for their company. Teams receive feedback from mentors playing the role of exploration manager.
Darcy Cuthill, The Oil Game's inventor, says about 40 schools across Canada currently use the game. Taking part in the game gives students "a holistic view of the oil and gas exploration process," says Ms. Cuthill.

At ConocoPhillips, 12 girls visited different professionals to see the variety of positions that are part of the daily operations of an oil and gas company. At lunch, they took part drilling in the Chocolate Ridge Reservoir.
Gina Wozney, P.Eng., provided the girls with a chocolate cake to "explore." The chocolate represented water, whipped cream represented gas, and raspberry filling was the oil. The students even had to dodge moose and trees to simulate the environmental factors, which must be considered during a real exploration.

The mentors involved in Operation Minerva take part because they realize how important positive influences are on young girls as they make the important decisions of what areas of study to pursue in university. Many of the professionals made their choices because of valuable guidance they received during their adolescence.
Helen Chang, P.Eng., chairman of the Canadian Section of the Society of Petroleum Engineers and one of the mentors taking part at Landmark Graphics, says: "I probably wouldn't be here if I didn't have a mentor back then."

One of the mentors at ConocoPhillips, facilities engineer Christine Wielezynski, E.I.T., was involved in Operation Minerva as a Grade 8 student. She is currently a committee member with the program and truly believes it can make a difference for young girls. "Often young people have ambitions and goals, but not the resources or people available to help achieve them," says Ms. Wielezynski.

Joyce Luethy, one of the founders of Operation Minerva, says the project involves girls aged 13-15 because it's a critical point for ensuring they remain interested in math and science. "We were always delighted with the enthusiasm of grade 7 female students for science and to a lesser extent mathematics. In Grade 8 we remarked a distancing from science and mathematics in the same female students," explains Ms. Luethy.

"Another of our concerns was that at age 14-15, adolescents have to make decisions about their courses for the next three years. In many cases they were advised in choosing these courses by counselors who, for the most part, had little knowledge of what kinds of jobs are available in science and technology."

It is obvious that both the students and the mentors enjoyed their time together on this special day. The mentors realize the important role they play in providing a positive female influence on the potential scientists of the future. The students are excited to see the incredible accomplishments women are presently making in the workforce and the wide range of opportunities that will be available to them in the future.

"It's an opportunity to get excited about what I do and hopefully get other people excited about what I do," says Gina Wozney, P.Eng., production engineer with ConocoPhillips.

Duri Lee is a student from AE Cross Junior High School who took part in activities at ConocoPhillips. She says she would definitely recommend Operation Minerva to other students.

"It's a great experience. You get to meet great people and they teach you a lot of things you wouldn't learn if you didn't take this program."

More Info

Alberta Women's Science Network
Visit www.awsn.com/opmin.htm
and www.awsn.com/mentoring.htm

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