Meet Lucy Li, Senior Research Officer at the Aerospace Research Centre

- Ottawa, Ontario

Photo of Lucy Li

Lucy Li likes to say that "Each one of us can make an impact. Together we make a change."  When it comes to Lucy, Senior Research Officer at the Aerospace Research Centre's Structures and Materials Performance Lab, that impact can be substantial. From her passion for green technologies to spearheading an NRC-wide mentorship program for women in STEM, Lucy has made every day of her last 20 years at the NRC worthwhile.

After earning a PhD in Aerospace Materials and Structures at the University of Bristol, Lucy joined the NRC at the Structures, Material and Performance Lab in 2002. Over the past 20 years, she expanded her research areas from materials and manufacturing to include aircraft repair and maintenance, virtual testing of composites, novel materials and green technologies. No matter what project of which she's been a part of, she continues to love what she does every single day.

One of Lucy's passions at the NRC is her research on green technology and commitment to finding ways to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and eliminate hazardous chemicals in the workplace. Her past work led to the successful elimination of hexavalent chromium, a dangerous substance known for causing cancer, in the aircraft repair procedures for Canadian air force fleets. Her research in virtual composite testing also inspired more efficient and eco-friendly aircraft design, including the replacement of chromate paint systems with green alternatives. These are just some examples of Lucy's efforts towards protecting the work environment, ensuring worker safety, reducing our carbon footprint in aircraft design and making a sustainable world a reality.

Lucy's current green technology project is called Shark Skin for Green Aviation, which focuses on the development of a sharkskin-like surface coating that can reduce aircraft drag and fuel burn by 3.5% based on projection. Lucy is leading a team of 7 research labs across the NRC, as well as university and industrial partners, to push the envelope of science with her vision of a technology demonstration and implementation within 5 years. The drag reduction technology used for this project is not new, in fact, it's the same technology that was used to create U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps' gold-medal winning swimsuit, the Speedo LZR Racer. Lucy and her team are constantly keeping an eye on a range of other applications for this shark-skin technology. Lucy is passionate about green technologies and working with all stakeholders to make a real impact on climate change. This project is one of the endeavours that supports Canada's 2050 carbon net zero targets through technology and innovation.

Another one of Lucy's passions is to foster equity, diversity and inclusion across the NRC. As both a woman in aerospace engineering and a visible minority, Lucy believes that the NRC's success in science and innovation in the 21st century hinges on better inclusion and equity in the workplace. Throughout a successful career at the NRC, Lucy has learned to work even harder when the odds have been stacked against her, a practice she is motivated to share among other women in similar positions. Lucy has been working tirelessly as a member of NRC Women's Recruitment and Retention Committee. She also helped introduce the Tiger Team Mentorship Pilot for Women in STEM, a program for women across the NRC that matched mentors with mentees, provided guidance for setting mentoring objectives and provided employees with access to mentoring resources. This special project won an NRC Organizational Excellence Award in 2021 for contributing to improving the organization through an exceptional initiative.  Lucy currently co-leads another equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) initiative at the NRC, to support NRC STEM employees in a study of equity in resource access for career development, which is supported by various research centres. With EDI programs like these and people like Lucy, the NRC is well positioned to continue growing its EDI strategies by identifying specific gaps impeding workplace inclusion and equality.

Each one of us can make an impact. Together we make a change. Lucy Li will continue to work along with her NRC colleagues from across the country to foster a sustainable future of science and innovation through EDI.

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