Martha Lenio’s eclectic career has included working as a photovoltaic process engineer, an entrepreneur, a fake astronaut (and a potential real one) and her current role as an Arctic renewable energy specialist.

The 2004 Waterloo mechanical engineering graduate, who went on to complete a doctorate in photovoltaic engineering at the University of New South Wales in Australia, moved to Nunavut two years ago with World Wildlife Fund (WWF)- Canada after working with the NGO for a year in Toronto.Martha Lenio

“It was on my list of places I wanted to live,” she says. “So, when the opportunity came up to work in Iqaluit, I jumped on it.”

Alumnus Martha Lenio moved to Nunavut two years ago with World Wildlife Fund-Canada

Lenio is now focused on moving Nunavut communities off diesel fuel and onto sustainable and less expensive forms of energy, such as wind and solar energy.

“I work on two levels – one is providing policy advice to government about what kind of programs they need to put in place to make renewable energy and energy transition a viable option,” she explains. “The other is working with residents to help them determine what solutions will be best for their communities.”

Launching local training programs

Lenio loves the small-town atmosphere of Iqaluit, where she is a member of the local utility board and co-founder of a society to bring green energy training programs to help people living there become solar installers and home energy auditors.

The team commander of the NASA-funded Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation mission in 2014, Lenio was one of 23 women shortlisted three years later by the Canadian Space Agency for its astronaut program.

While her current working environment seems light years away from one in space, it does have at least one similarity.

“Getting dressed to go outside here in the winter is kind of like putting on a full spacesuit,” she laughs.

Article originally published in the October 2020 issue of WEAL