Chinese-born Maggie Lu builds STEM career in Canada

October 4, 2018

By Canadian Immigrant Magazine |

Using science and technology to break down barriers as an immigrant

Maggie Lu grew up in China with a keen passion for science and technology. She was interested in the many ways chemicals could be used to improve people’s lives.

Upon completing her bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering, Lu moved to Canada in search of better opportunities for personal growth, and a chance to put her considerable skills as a chemical engineer to work. She soon found her way to North York-based Tempo Aerospace, which manufactures high-performance coatings like paints, varnishes, enamels, primers and anti-static coatings, and they’re used by aerospace, defence, industrial and manufacturing organizations.

Lu specializes in new coatings, which are used to protect military aircrafts. Right now, she is developing and refining a unique water-based coating product that forms a protective layer around the aluminum body of a plane, preventing corrosive damage from harsh weather conditions, high altitudes, UV rays and high temperatures. An effective coating can reduce repair time, which allows the aircraft to safely navigate in all conditions for longer periods.

“These coatings need to be applied very carefully,” Lu says. “Removing old primer can create toxic chemical dust that can be damaging if inhaled. It’s important to me to develop a coating that will be safe for our team to handle, and won’t harm the environment when we need to dispose of an old coating and reapply.”

While Lu navigates the challenge of finding new coating solutions, she has also faced her fair share of obstacles entering a traditionally male-dominated field as a chemical engineer.

“I found it hard to be taken seriously at the start,” she says. “But I’ve always believed in my skills. It’s a matter of perspective, I know I can offer a different way of looking at a problem, and that can make all the difference.”

And she encourages others to pursue the same type of work.

“I think a lot of people coming to Canada have a lot to offer the country and there are many talented women in STEM,” says Lu.

The numbers agree: according to Statistics Canada, among female university graduates aged 25 to 34, immigrants were twice as likely to have a STEM degree as those born in Canada.

“Coming to Canada has offered me great opportunities to grow as a chemical engineer,” she says.

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