Relaxing in a cottage hammock one summer day, overlooking a calm and clear Eagle Lake in Northern Ontario, Linda Gowman, MSc’89, PhD, had a personal epiphany about water— not the usual kind of aha moment the practical engineer was accustomed to.
“I got to asking myself, why is it that some places have good water and water treatment and others don’t,” she explained. “The great realization for me was that providing the world’s people with water is actually a social policy conversation.”
If Gowman’s career choice is any indication, this wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill epiphany. Instead, it was a highly relevant observation about her industry, as she has been working for Trojan Technologies, the London, Ontariobased water purification company, for 16 years.
Trojan specializes in UV water treatment,providing clean water solutions for municipalities and industries around the globe.
But advancing technical solutions isn’t the company’s sole motivation. “Certainly technologies can be made better and more efficient, but moving forward the conversation is going to be about how we live together and share resources, and how we finance them,” said Gowman.
As Chief Technology Officer, she is part of this big-picture approach to water, interacting with governments and academic partners to better understand the role of new technologies, research and public policy in Trojan’s product development.
“I spend a fair bit of time thinking about what it is we should be doing today that puts us in a good place for five or 10 years out,” she explained. “My job is looking at what we, as a company, can provide to the world to make things better.”
Gowman reveals she came to the water industry quite by accident. A professional engineer by training, she graduated from Schulich Medicine & Dentistry with an MSc in medical biophysics.
“When I started in medical biophysics, it was just this wonderful, mind-opening experience to the mysteries and the power of nature,” she said about her time at the School. “That has stayed with me since and I have an enormous respect for what nature can do.”
After completing a PhD in mechanical engineering with a biomedical focus at the University of Toronto, Gowman returned to London to work as a Research Associate in medical imaging at London Health Sciences Centre and Robarts Research Institute.
A former colleague came forward with an opportunity to work at Trojan and Gowman took it. “Treating water is in the same place philosophically as medical engineering,” she said. “Both have a public health focus.”
The public’s attitude toward water continues to interest Gowman. “We have a very complicated relationship with water,” she explained. “We’re very good at making it dirty. A lot of the things we do in our homes have water being used as a garbage truck.”
This discarded wastewater is something Trojan is looking at as a source of clean water and energy, converting waste into raw material.
“It’s a wonderful sense of accomplishment when you feel you can contribute, not just to improving the health of citizens, but also the health of the environment,” said Gowman.
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