Welcome to Aboriginal Access to Engineering, Queen's University

Rachael Claus-Buckles

Nation: 
Mohawk/Delaware
Degree: 
B. Sc. in Mining Engineering
Job title: 
Mining Engineer

Type(s) of Engineering:

Mechanical, Mining
Favourite thing: 

"The people and getting to see Saskatchewan."

Every Thursday, Rachael Claus-Buckles gets on a plane and commutes 1200 kilometres either to or from work. She is a junior mine engineer at Cameco's McArthur River Operation, the world's largest known, high-grade uranium deposit located in northern Saskatchewan.

Back in high school, living in an isolated camp and working 500 to 600 meters underground was the furthest thing from Rachael's mind. In fact, she didn't even know what engineering was. Then one day someone from a nearby college came to talk to her grade 11 biology class. "I was sitting in the back of the class and I thought, engineering? What's that? He really opened a door for me."

She chose to study at Queen's and loved it, even though university was a big shock at first. "Mom and Dad weren't there to say, what are you doing. I had to develop my time-management and study skills." She also had to decide what it was she really wanted to do. Rachael spent the first two and a half years in mechanical engineering, but then started wondering if it was really where she belonged, "I thought, I don't know if I want to do this." Luckily, a friend's sister in mining helped her make the switch. "I made the decision Friday afternoon, and switched the next Monday morning.

"That change was what brought her to Cameco. A professor she worked for gave her a reference which led to a summer job and then full-time employment. "When I graduated, Cameco didn't even have to train me, they just gave me a clipboard and said, go to it."

Rachael hopes that other Aboriginal students will follow her into engineering, "Through numbers and engineering, Native kids can compete on a world stage. But I'd encourage them to stay in school in general, even if engineering isn't for them. School brings the world closer, and exposes you to different people. When you meet someone from Botswana you learn they're not really that far away from you; and that goes both ways. At university, you become an ambassador for your community."

As for becoming mining engineers, Rachael admits it's not for everyone, "You're either meant for it or not," she says. But she obviously loves it. "Up north," she explains, "You can stand on a hill and there's nothing around, just the bears, the wolves, the ravens and you."

Since being interviewed Rachael has moved on to a new job in Calgary which allows her to stay closer to home.

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Kingston, Ontario, K7L 3N6, Canada

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