Elizabeth Croft, Ph.D., P.Eng., FEC, FASME
Elizabeth A. Croft received the B.A.Sc. degree in mechanical engineering in 1988 from the University of British Columbia, the M.A.Sc. degree from the University of Waterloo in 1992 and the Ph.D. degree from the University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1995. She is a Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada, where she is director of the Collaborative Advanced Robotics and Intelligent Systems Laboratory. She received a Peter Wall Early Career Scholar award in 2001 and an NSERC Accelerator Award in 2007. Her research interests include industrial robotics, human-robot interaction, and mechatronics. She is a founding instructor of the MECH2 program, which won the 2005 ASME Curriculum development award, the 2007 UBC Alfred Scow award and the 2008 Alan Blizzard Award. She is a registered Professional Engineer, and a member of ASME and IEEE.
Dr. Croft’s research is centred around human-robot interaction, and more specifically, how interactions with robots can be designed to naturally adapt to what their non-expert human users want them to do. Her aim is to make industrial robotic systems more adaptive and applicable to the changing manufacturing landscape – involving a significantly higher level of interaction with people. Thus, her research delves into how robotic systems can behave, and be perceived to behave, in a safe, predictable, and reliable manner. Applications of this work range from manufacturing assembly to healthcare and assistive technology. This work is highly interdisciplinary and requires collaboration with people working in computer science, psychology, health and biological sciences, and places in between.
Dr. Croft has been a member of the Division for Advancement of Women in Engineering and Geoscience (DAWEG) of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC (APEGBC) since 1995. She has served in many positions with this group including Co-Chair (98/99) and is currently on the Advisory Board. Dr. Coft is also a member of the Society of Canadian Women in Science and Technology (SCWIST). Dr. Croft has given numerous talks and educational sessions to promote women in engineering from elementary school through graduate studies, academe and industry careers. For her many activities promoting women in engineering, she received the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists (BC) Professional Service Award in 2005, the Award for the Support of Women in the Engineering Profession, Canadian Council of Professional Engineers in 2006, and was made a Fellow of Engineers Canada in 2008 and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 2009.
In 1998 as a Vice Chair (and later Chair) of the Division for Advancement of Women in Engineering and Geoscience (DAWEG), of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC (APEGBC), Dr. Croft co-chaired the Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering Science and Technology (CCWEST) Conference in Vancouver. Since 1996 in addition to many school visits, awareness and recruitment presentations, she has presented the yearly Salary Seminar and Networking event for senior students which regularly attracts over 100 students and 50 industry members, to learn about issues around gender inequities in salary negotiation.
In 2003, working with two graduate students, Dr. Croft launched the Engineering Tri-Mentoring program. This program, which started as a pilot for women students, tripled in size in its second year, expanded to serve both men and women students, and in 2006 was mainstreamed by the Faculty of Applied Science, with the hiring of a Student Development Officer (SDO). In 2005, Dr. Croft worked with a group of students to found the UBC Women in Engineering program (WIE). Seed funding for this group came from the NSERC Chair and the UBC equity office. This group organizes speakers, brown bag lunches, and other networking events for students, and supports mailing lists and a website (http://wie.apsc.ubc.ca) that help women students find out about opportunities available to them. It has also been adopted as a mainstream program supported by Applied Science also supported by an SDO. In 2007, Dr. Croft worked with student and industry volunteers to organize a two-day symposium for women in engineering across BC. This highly successful event attracted over 100 women and, by popular demand, was very successfully repeated September 2009, as “Creating Connections.” “Creating Connections 2.0: A New Perspective” is planned for September 2011. Throughout her time at UBC, Dr. Croft has worked closely with industry and academic partners interested in supporting women in engineering activities. She was an active member of the Jade Network receiving seed support funds for several initiatives, and presenting reports on outcomes and effective strategies at network meetings. From 2005-2007, she was also a member of an Advisory Committee struck by the Provost and Dean of Science to produce “A Report on the Working Climate of The Faculty of Science, at UBC”, and she continues to serve as an Advisory member to DAWEG.
Under Dr. Croft’s leadership as Associate Head (External Matters), this past summer Mechanical Engineering partnered with the Summer Science program run by the Institute for Aboriginal Health. Aboriginal teenagers (mainly young women) participating in the program visited Dr. Croft’s CARIS robotics lab where they were able to participate in a number of robotics demonstrations, meet with graduate students, and participate in an open question and answer session. Following this they participated in a robotics-inspired, hands-on mechanical grasper project which they could take home. Approximately 30 aboriginal teens participated in this program, over two visits. Dr. Croft continues to work on efforts to engage the aboriginal community, most recently working with the Faculty of Applied Science to develop a matching scholarship program for aboriginal students entering graduate studies in engineering. As a member of the Applied Science community service learning advisory committee she is interested in developing opportunities for students to engage with aboriginal communities through mutually beneficial and respectful partnerships involving engineering student projects.