Michael Henschel

Director of Operations, C-CORE

Bachelor of Science, Mathematics, 1991

I am interested in asking questions, to find ways to describe who and where we are.

Michael Henschel, BSc’91 sees mathematics as a language, a language he can use to explain the world around him.

“Being a mathematician I basically write poetry,” Michael, says. He says it with a grin and adds, “But I get paid a lot better than poets.”

Michael is director of operations for the Ottawa branch of C-CORE, a research and development company. It offers, among other things, world-class expertise in ice and ice movement—critical knowledge as the climate changes. Michael’s group in the company specializes in remote sensing. It’s all math and physics-heavy, perfect for a former math major at King’s.

“At university I was studying the logical arguments and fundamentals behind what we understand as mathematics,” he says, talking about the courses he took after he finished the Foundation Year Program (FYP).

“I have always been fascinated by patterns and problem solving. And, I have also been fascinated by language and describing the world around me. So when you put those two together—you get FYP and mathematics.”

It was a perfect combination of disciplines for Michael and it propelled him into a satisfying career.

After graduation Michael found work in research and development with SNC-Lavalin. He worked with Satlantic Inc. developing radar systems to look at the ocean’s surface. Michael then stepped back into academia to begin a PhD program in physics at the Royal Military College. He left before finishing to work with Defence Research and Development Ottawa doing more work on radar systems. That led to work with the aerospace company MDA before he settled in with C-CORE. His work there is, to the non-scientist, complicated to explain. He jokes that sometimes he tells people, “I am a science fiction writer—because I spend a lot of time writing proposals.”

That’s true but he is also still a scientist and he’s a manager.

“I like to think of it as active coaching… It is important to me to help other people succeed.”

All along his career path Michael says he has used the skills he acquired at King’s.

“There is nothing more critical in progressing a project or moving a business forward than being able to write a sentence and to organize your thoughts in a way that other people can follow and understand. That’s what I got from FYP. Mathematics trains you to be extremely precise in what you are doing but it is a language unto itself. Mathematicians will understand you but no one else will. FYP gives you a way to communicate and reach more people than, say, physics and math do.”

But perhaps Michael’s greatest asset, the thing that helped him at King’s and to progress in his career, is his curiosity. It has always been his intellectual linchpin. You can see evidence of it on his desk where there is a copy of The Origins of Totalitarianism, a book by Hannah Arendt, the political theorist. He learned about her in FYP. There are also books on quantum electrodynamics. Curiosity squared.

“I am a seeker,” he says. “I am interested in asking questions, to find ways to describe who and where we are.”

Date posted: March 2021