Five things you need to know about McMaster Engineering’s new Dean – Faculty of Engineering

Five things you need to know about McMaster Engineering’s new Dean

Get to know the Faculty’s first woman to become Dean.

Heather Sheardown stands with her arms crossed outside of Johns Hodgins Engineering Building

On International Women in Engineering Day, we celebrate Heather Sheardown, the Faculty’s first woman to become Dean. Get to know Sheardown with our list below.

On International Women in Engineering Day, we celebrate Heather Sheardown, the Faculty’s first woman to become Dean. She will be starting officially on July 1. The Dean of Engineering is an academic and administrative leader responsible for growing the Faculty’s national and international reach and stature. From her impressive research on Ophthalmic Materials, to leading her own startup, to advocating for equity-deserving groups, here’s what you need to know about Heather Sheardown.   

1. Vibrant research portfolio and a passion for innovation 

Heather Sheardown sits in a lab with a model eye

Sheardown is a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Ophthalmic Biomaterials and professor of chemical engineering. Sheardown is currently the scientific director for C20/20 Ophthalmic Materials Commercialization (C20/20 Innovation Hub; 2016-present). In February 2021 she received $500,000 in funding from NSERC’s Alliance Grant. She hopes to expand opportunities in commercializing engineering research in her new role as dean. 

2. Avid cyclist 

Heather Sheardown in cycling gear standing beside her bike

Don’t be surprised if you see Sheardown peeling into John Hodgins Engineering building with her bike to make it for her 9 a.m. meeting. Sheardown has a passion for cycling. She is a proud bike collector and supporter of the Fighting Blindness Canada through their annual Cycle for Sight.

3. Long-standing McMaster employee and proud alumna 

Heather Sheardown poses with her hand on her chin smiling

Sheardown brings more than 25 years of diverse academic research, administrative and teaching experience to the position. She received a BEng in chemical engineering from McMaster University in 1989 and a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Toronto in 1995.  She joined McMaster in 1998 as an assistant professor in the department of chemical engineering. In addition, she was associate dean for the Faculty of Engineering at McMaster from 2009-2014 and member of the University Planning Committee and chair of the Budget Committee from 2012-2014.   

4. Strives to engage students and support their health and well-being 

Heather speaks to a student while wearing a McMaster Engineering face mask

As acting dean of engineering for the past year, Sheardown led and supported many key initiatives, including assisting students and staff as they returned to campus.  

When MacEng Reignites celebrated the gradual return to campus in September 2021 – a two-week event series dedicated to welcoming nearly 2,000 Mac Eng community members in a safe environment after a long period of virtual learning – Sheardown was there to meet new faces and greet old friends.  

During the event, she stressed how exciting it was to engage in-person again with the community and shared her goals to return to bustling activity.  

First and foremost is to make sure that we get people back to McMaster, back to the classroom, back in the lab and that everybody is safe. We want to keep moving things forward.

Heather Sheardown, Dean, Faculty of Engineering

That vision came true in the winter semester, when a full and positive return back to in-person classes was marked through Mac Eng Random Acts of Kindness: a multi-week celebration that included a Valentine’s Day photo booth, daily prize giveaways, free donuts and movie showing at The Westdale

5. Advocate for underrepresented, equity-deserving groups 

Heather Sheardown poses crossing her arms to make an X in front of her

Sheardown starts her new position at an exciting time – 40 per cent of the incoming 2022 engineering students are womenThis is a milestone achievement as the Faculty has seen an 18 per cent increase in six years. 

As she takes on this leadership role, Sheardown wants to inspire more women to pursue an engineering education. She hopes to see that number climb to 50 per cent as the Faculty’s dean.  

“Achieving the 40 per cent mark for incoming women in engineering is a great accomplishment for the Faculty. It is thrilling to see more women get the support and encouragement to pursue STEM education, and to have those women select McMaster as the institution where they will grow,” Sheardown said.  

“As dean of the Faculty, and as a woman in leadership, I am dedicated to serving this community and ensuring McMaster University is an environment where women in engineering thrive.”