This spring convocation, two female students are receiving their diplomas from the new and challenging Physics and Electrical Engineering joint program at the University of Ottawa. One of the graduates of the five-year honours bachelor is Amina Berrada, who left the region of Maghreb in North Africa for this program. Not only does Amina represent half of those graduating from this program, but also she is among the first women to do so. Excelling in a typically male dominated field, Amina’s path is unique and one of perseverance.
“Growing up in Morocco where women are generally not expected to have a career, especially in science, made me experience first-hand the challenges people face in this field,” said Amina. “I was fortunate to pursue my education in Canada where these barriers are less predominant. However, I realized how little representation there is in my classmates and professors; even in the most progressive places work is still needed to break these barriers.”
Amina’s passion for science fuels her desire to ensure others feel they can succeed no matter who they are. She has guided others in their studies as a Faculty of Science mentor, and she is engaged in developing a mentoring system with the Physics Society to help with students’ post-graduation decision-making. The aim of the system being to connect undergraduates with graduates so they can learn about the next steps, like completing a masters or starting work in a certain industry. On top of all that, she organized the Canadian Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics at the University of Ottawa in 2019, which promotes diversity and inclusion in the physics world each year.
In addition to the time Amina has spent supporting others, she has built a strong drive to pursue her own academic goals and credits it to the University’s scientific community. She has conducted research with university groups that focus on biophysics and solar panels. She is even preparing for the upcoming publication of the results of this work, which she previously presented at multiple conferences.
“Having had the chance to meet some incredible female scientists and professionals made me realize my goals were within reach,” said Amina. “Seeing people like that who have faced challenges and succeeded helped me to push forward, even when things were difficult.”
Amina is not only embarking on a new job but on a new opportunity with Robogals, an international non-profit association that inspires young women who intend to pursue studies in STEM. Now employed by Lumentum, working with product improvement plans, she plans to stay in Ottawa for the next few years to launch a career in the field that she worked hard to reach.