U of T alumna on directing Toronto’s water infrastructure program

The Civil Engineering Industry Advisory Board (IAB) is an integral link in supporting and strengthening the Department’s relationships with key industries, fostering increased collaborative research, enhancing student experiential learning opportunities and increasing industry engagement. 

Our IAB is comprised of a group of experienced industry professionals who are all committed to the advancement of our students, faculty and the Department. 

We recently caught up with IAB member and University of Toronto alumna Eleanor McAteer (CivE 8T4) who is Director, Water Infrastructure Management at City of Toronto. 

What do you specialize in?

We are responsible for the long-term management of the City’s $83-billion worth of water, wastewater and stormwater management assets.  It requires that we optimize and balance infrastructure investment, level of service and performance. We also provide infrastructure and capital planning, including a $15-billion, 10-year capital plan, as well as policy development to meet strategic objectives.   

What about your work is rewarding?

Ashbridges Bay Treatment Plant
Ashbridges Bay Treatment Plant

Contributing to the success of Toronto.  Great cities need great infrastructure. It may be somewhat taken for granted, but when you are responsible for the infrastructure, you see the complexity of the challenges and the diversity of requirements, so it’s very interesting and worthwhile work. 

Why did you want to join the Industry Advisory Board? 

We need to be continually improving performance, “faster-better-stronger” and we have many emerging issues – for instance climate change and resilience needs to meet. The Board provides a terrific opportunity to share these requirements and explore connections with U of T to achieve better outcomes and solutions. 

How can faculty and students take advantage of the IAB’s expertise and presence within the department?

The Board knows that there is work being done at U of T that is leading in many areas and we want to bring opportunities to emphasize the “applied” in applied science. I think having an open mind and creatively thinking about how research can address industry’s lived challenges is a good approach. Basically, think along the lines of ‘this is how I can solve your problem….’  

Talk about your experience at University of Toronto…favourite classes, professors, places to study on campus? Part of clubs or teams? 

A Chariot Race held at U of T in 1980.

I remember it was in the winter, I think it was called the Chariot Race.  Each class formed a team where about 10 students would run around Kings College Circle with a metal barrel with a clamped on lid, containing one of the class. The team would carry/roll the barrel and also interfere with other teams trying to move around the circle.  It was all very medieval.  Being small, I was tactically selected to be in the barrel. Absolutely an out of body experience.  Completely dark, banging, rolling, dropping, and at the end, sudden daylight and everyone cheering. I don’t think it was about winning, it was just a celebration of survival. Much like the entirety of first-year. 

By David Goldberg

Connect with Eleanor McAteer on LinkedIn

Learn more about Civil Engineering’s Industry Advisory Board