Dec '13/Jan '14

Aspiring engineer’s legacy lives on

Claudia Macedo an inspiration for women in metallurgy

By Dinah Zeldin

Claudia Macedo wanted to do it all and she got an awful lot done in her 23 years. The finishing-year materials engineering student at McGill University left her colleagues inspired and her family proud after her untimely death on September 28. Macedo was killed when struck by a car while cycling on Baie James road in Matagami, Quebec. At the time, she was beginning her final internship at Glencore’s Matagami mine.

Her father, Julio, said his daughter chose to work at the remote Matagami mine to accomplish two of her goals: to promote women in materials and metallurgical engineering and to support the development of Quebec’s resource potential. “She led by example,” he said. “I respect her courage, because many people say we need to develop northern Quebec but look for jobs close to their homes in Montreal. Claudia was willing to make sacrifices to implement her ideas.”

Though Claudia Macedo was not at Matagami mine for long, she left a lasting impression. “Her great potential was rapidly observed by everyone, and it became evident that she had a bright future in the field,” said Mark Furlotte, chief metallurgist at the mine.

In 2012, she successfully completed an internship with Rio Tinto’s Quebec Metal Powders’ product development department in Sorel, Quebec, where she examined the effects of additives on metal powders. She did this while remaining involved in McGill’s student life, acting as president of the CIM Metallurgy and Materials Society (MetSoc) Student Chapter, volunteering with various groups that promote women in science, and leading workshops at Mining For Society (M4S), CIM’s interactive and educational show on mining, minerals, metals and materials.

“She was always working on a project, doing schoolwork and trying to get people involved in the chapter,” said Adrian Bill, a materials engineering student at McGill and an executive member of MetSoc’s student chapter. “All of the professors in the department knew her and loved her, because she was always willing to help.”

Under her leadership, McGill’s MetSoc chapter thrived, receiving the Outstanding CIM-MetSoc Chapter Award in 2011, and providing students with opportunities to connect with industry professionals through field trips, guest speaker presentations and other educational activities. Macedo also encouraged female students to take an active role in both the department and industry. “”She encouraged involvement from girls in the department, especially those who wouldn’t have made the first move on their own,” said Andrew Walker, a McGill CIM-MetSoc Student Chapter executive member who was also a close friend. “Because of her, a lot more people got involved.”

“She really brought a lot of interest in mineral processing into the department,” said Bill. “She was always making sure that younger students were involved in the [MetSoc] chapter, and she showed them how the society could help them get professional contacts and exposure to the industry.”

According to her father, Macedo’s biggest contribution was her promotion of women in metallurgical engineering and her enthusiastic support of departmental and MetSoc initiatives. Since her passing, the idea to create a scholarship for women entering the field and looking to pursue an internship in northern Quebec in her memory has been considered.

“It is our hope that a scholarship for women pursuing studies in engineering at McGill University can be created in Claudia’s honour,” said Genevieve Snider, manager of the materials engineering co-op program at McGill. The university is in the process of identifying a corporate donor for the fund.

Close to 300 of Macedo’s family, professors, colleagues and friends attended her funeral at Mount Royal cemetery in Montreal. “We have lost a visionary woman who could have contributed a lot to society as an engineer or as a scientist,” said her father, Julio. “But, in spite of that, we are proud. She lost her life completing an internship and promoting a cause that she wanted to promote. Her courage and perseverance will be landmarks for aspiring women engineers in metallurgy.”

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