University of Toronto word mark

Alumni: Giving U of T more reasons to be proud

Alumni Portraits
Julie Payette
Current Industry: Science & Technology
Master of Applied Science (MASc) 1990, Electrical & Computer Engineering
Hon. Doctor of Science (Hon. DSc) 2001

Julie Payette is best known as the first Canadian to board the International Space Station in 1999 and for serving as flight engineer and lead robotic operator on the Space Shuttle Endeavour 10 years later.

Fluent in French and English, she can also speak Italian, Russian and Spanish. And sing in those languages. Payette was a member of the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra Choir from 1989 to 1992.

This native Montrealer obtained an International Baccalaureate at the United World College of the Atlantic in Wales in 1982, a BEng in electrical engineering from McGill in 1986 and a MASc (Computer Engineering) from U of T in 1990.

"Once I completed my Master’s degree from the University of Toronto I was ready to tackle professional jobs."

Payette decided to become an astronaut after watching Apollo missions to the Moon at school in Montreal.

“I’m nine years old, I’m sitting down on the floor of a gym and I’m watching astronauts walking on the moon,” she recalled in an interview with U of T Magazine. “I don’t speak English. I’m a Canadian girl… I had never been in an airplane… and I thought this is so cool I wanted to do the same.”

“It didn’t matter to me that I was the wrong nationality, the wrong gender and spoke the wrong language. It didn’t cross my mind that this was a bit of a far-fetched goal because when you’re nine years, you don’t think of those things.”

Named public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. in 2011, Payette has also been appointed scientific delegate to the United States for the Quebec Government. She remains a member of the Canadian astronaut corps.

Related Alumni
  • “We are taking the legacy of the Canadarm and translating it into the next generati... Read more

    Natalie Panek
  • Bill Buxton at any moment can be quoting Oscar Wilde, or T.S. Eliot, or Jimmy Hendrix... Read more

    Bill Buxton
  • "It’s time for action and I think leadership has changed, business has changed. "... Read more

    Kirstine Stewart
  • Margaret McCain likes people to call her Margie, but thousands of Canadians call the ... Read more

    Margaret McCain
  • Shelley Saywell went to university to study theatre arts, but soon realized that her ... Read more

    Shelley Saywell