(Virtual) Coffee with Allyson Giannikouris, Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering
This is part of a series of coffee chats interviewing MME staff and Faculty.
Allyson Giannikouris is a role model and a contemplative leader.
For almost a quarter-century, Allyson Giannikouris (pronounced gee-ann-i-cour-iss) has been involved in Girl Guides. She spent a decade earning badges, and has spent 10 years giving back to her roots as an engaged Girl Guide leader. In fact, she had planned a sleepover at Ripley’s Aquarium the weekend we went into COVID-19 isolation. She says, “I love it because I met women I wouldn’t have normally crossed paths with” and she loves mentoring. - something that clearly translates to her role as a Lecturer teaching courses towards the computer engineering end of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering (MME).
(Allyson at Guides Canada)
At a young age, while growing up in Calgary, Allyson knew she wanted to do something with math and science, but in more of a hands-on role than a theoretical. Bored in typical classrooms, she went to a special high school in for self-directed learning that allowed her to take more courses than would otherwise have been possible. She came to Ontario to attend University of Waterloo (BASc. CE 2009, MASc. ECE 2011). It is no surprise that she would travel away from Alberta to go to school.
Allyson’s Mother and Father were pioneers and her lineage is highly-educated. Her grandparents and father came from Mangalore, south of Goa, on the west coast of India, and emigrated to a town of less than 5000 people in rural Alberta where her grandmother taught high school English for over 30 years while her grandfather, who had been a lawyer and judge in India, settled into several decades of teaching high school social studies. Her grandmother loves telling the grandkids about arriving in Edmonton from India to -40 °C weather. It was so cold the trunk of the cab froze shut with all their belongings encapsulated in it. Her Mom, who is from New Brunswick, took accounting systems in college and transitioned into computers in the 1980s for system maintenance. She wanted to do automotive, but she wasn’t allowed at that time. Her father was a Chartered Accountant before moving into mergers and acquisitions.
(Allyson and Mike Giannikouris)
Met at uWaterloo
Self-proclaimed introverts, Allyson and her husband, Mike Giannikouris, (MME Class of 2009, 2013 and student of the infamous Roydon Fraser) met in first year at University of Waterloo, lived in residence together, and are a strong bonded pair who share many of the same interests.
Mike was heavily involved in EcoCar (Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions team from the University of Waterloo). He says, “EcoCAR was a lot of work and my wife had to join the team just to be able to spend time with me!” (Of note, Mike is a team lead and Senior Embedded Systems Developer at Geotab. Geotab sponsors a Mechanical Engineering Capstone Award.) Allyson credits time on the team for making her more comfortable tackling everything from tire changes to complete disassembly and repair of a washing machine.
After they both obtained their Masters at uWaterloo, they married and took a three-week trip to Greece (Mike’s family of origin is Greece), Italy and France. They loved buying baguettes and blocks of cheese and sitting just sitting in the Paris parks to enjoy them.
Despite traveling a lot, she has no bucket list and isn’t really interested in travel. Her best childhood memory is a trip to BC with Girl Guides where they camped for five days and toured Victoria Island then sailed for five days. She’s been to Italy several times, and also to India, England, Scotland, Mexico and almost all of Canada (only excluding the territories and Saskatchewan).
Allyson is real, honest and unequivocally herself, she doesn’t conform to trends.
- Music anything middle of the road – no classical or heavy metal. Great Big Sea was her first concert at a summer festival.
- Not a gamer.
- Loves delving into puzzles (and debugging systems).
- If Mike picks the movie it’s likely to be an action movie, if she picks it’s more likely a comedy, maybe something with Steve Carrell or British comedies like Faulty Towers.
- She reads crime and mystery books and loves Harry Potter.
- Loves hiking
(Token, Allyson and Mike's Chihuahua something.)
They love their Dog, Token, a nine-year-old long-haired, Chihuahua something. Her pearl of wisdom is “to always have a back-up plan” – something that ties in her Girl Guide leadership and life to date.