Oh, the places you’ll go!

Posted on September 18, 2020

Nancy Harrison headshot

Alumna Nancy Harrison (Sc’87) is an amazing example of the many possibilities for engineering graduates. Her degree in Geophysical Engineering has resulted in several leadership positions – but not where you’d expect. A life sciences investor and entrepreneur, Harrison is on the forefront of discovery for Canada and now contributing to solutions for the global pandemic.

“My career has certainly not gone in the direction I imagined when I first started my degree,” says Harrison. “But that’s the amazing thing about engineering – it can take you anywhere.” After graduating and working as an engineer for Shell for four years, Harrison’s interests drew her to drug development and life sciences startups, both running and funding companies, and building a leadership role in Canada’s biotech sector growth. She is also a co-founder and former president of MSI Methylation Sciences, a private company with a unique treatment of depression.

Harrison’s leadership in the industry has had a significant impact on the success of several start-up firms creating innovative therapeutics. She has mentored the next generation of leaders, and has been recognized for her contributions with several awards, including the Miton Wong Leadership Award from Life Sciences BC, the Excellence in Industry from Women in Finance award, and Canada’s Top 40 under 40.

Recently, Harrison was asked to co-lead the federal government’s COVID-19 Therapeutics Task Force, which is providing expert advice to the Canadian government on various therapeutic projects in development, to help secure access to treatments for Canadians. Harrison notes that the task force includes ‘rock star’ clinicians and scientists with a deep level of expertise. “It’s an honour to be part of this team, and to work with such amazing and committed people,” she says.

Harrison notes that she still has a passion for geology but was also always drawn to medicine.“If biomedical engineering had been an option when I was at school, I probably would have taken it,” she says. “But in fact, my geological training has prepared me well to understand systems and processes in any industry. That’s the beauty of an engineering degree.”