Cannon, Dr. M. Elizabeth

2009 Winner: Outstanding Contribution To The Alberta Science And Technology Community

Putting Calgary On The GPS Map

A lifelong interest in science and math led Dr. Elizabeth Cannon to her career in geomatics engineering and to the forefront of international GPS (Global Positioning Systems) research and innovation. Her leadership at the Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary and in the community has helped shape the vision of science and technology in Alberta. Now dean of the Schulich School of Engineering and a recognized world innovator of satellite navigation for land, air and marine technology and applications, Dr. Cannon says she was equally drawn to Calgary and the then-new field of GPS technology.

“It was exciting to be here at that time,” she remembers. “The city was growing and GPS technology was at a point when it really was coming downstream.”

Building a Community

Twenty-five years later, she reflects on some of her accomplishments. “Calgary is now recognized as one of the world’s nodes of excellence in GPS technology,” she says. “I’ve been able to be part of building that strong geomatics community and I’ve seen it gain momentum.”

Dr. Cannon has been instrumental in putting Calgary on the GPS map. She worked with academia, industry and government to build a significant research program in satellite navigation systems, which has helped earn Calgary and Alberta a place as a leader in the development and commercialization of innovative technologies applied to navigation and positioning.

Inspiring the Next Generation

Awarded the Alberta Centennial Medal for her leadership in the science and technology community and listed among Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women in 2006, Dr. Cannon uses her influence to be a mentor and a role model for young scientists, particularly women.

“I’m very passionate about attracting young women into science and engineering,” she says. “Youth—male and female—have all manner of choices in front of them. We need talented young people to pursue careers in science so they can take part in the global economy.”

Dr. Cannon has been the catalyst for many programs encouraging girls to become involved in engineering. And for five years, she held the NSERC/Petro-Canada Chair for Women in Science and Engineering for the Prairie Region promoting science and engineering to young women. Because of her continuous advocacy, the Schulich School of Engineering has a higher proportion of female undergraduate students than all other major engineering schools in Canada.

Dr. Cannon is involved in various industry boards and advisory committees where her inclusive approach involving all sectors and the community is key to strategic initiatives that enhance Alberta’s science and technology sector. “I connect with community and find the people who want to roll up their sleeves and be part of making an impact,” Dr. Cannon says. “If people around the table have good ideas and can build a strong case for economic growth and social impact investments, great things will happen.”