Saturday, 19 January 2013

Graduate School

How important is graduate school for engineers? I know in most cases engineers should be able to find a job with an undergraduate degree because of the amount of knowledge we acquire in school and how practical our degree is. Typically in our undergrad we take much more courses than other faculties in the span of four to five years. Many people choose to go work and start their career rather than go back to school for another two to five years.

I graduated with a nanotechnology degree in electrical engineering so I find it a lot harder to find jobs that are tailored for my option. Furthermore, most the jobs that are posted that fit my field of study typically requires a masters degree or even a PhD. I have been thinking of going back to school to do my masters, but I am not sure what field of study I want to go into now though. I have been looking at the different things I could study and there are a lot of options!

As well, in Canada when you do a masters you can take two different routes! Masters of Engineering or Masters of Applied Science. What makes them different is one is mostly course work and a small project based. The other (Masters of Applied Science)is thesis based and a lot less courses are taken. Another important factor to point out is you can only do your PhD if you do a Masters of Applied Science. There are exceptions to that though. At my school if you do a Masters of Engineering you can switch into the Masters of Applied Science program before hitting the one year mark in the program. Another thing is if you go into a Masters of Applied Science you can receive funding from your supervisor for your tuition and living expenses, but if you go into the Masters of Engineering program you receive no funding. Typically the tuition fee is much higher in the MEng program.

Here are some of the options I have considered:

Option 1:

I could apply for the Masters of Applied Science program in nanotechnology and learn more about carbon nanotubes and semiconductor devices. Some of my research interests would be working on solar devices and creating solar cells that would have a high efficiency to low cost ratio. I am not sure if I would want to continue this path though, because of the job market.

Option 2:

I could apply for the Masters of Engineering in electrical engineering and take some courses I didn't get to take in my undergrad. I could take more power courses such as Power System Analysis, Advanced Power System Analysis and Advanced Power System Control and Dynamics. This path would be a 180 turn for me. I am a lot more interested in this direction because of the job prospects and how practical this stuff is.

Option 3:

Masters of Engineering in clean energy. In this program I could take many courses that will help lead me on a career path to clean and renewable energy. This path is interesting because I could learn about alternative energy technologies and thermal energy systems.

Anyways I still haven't applied for graduate school yet. I already missed the deadline for September of 2013. I emailed the admissions and they said I still have a chance of making it. As well, I don't know how competitive the grades will be this year so I don't even know if I will get in. I also finally got confirmation from all my professors who will write a reference for me when I do apply to grad school. Hopefully I get into grad school and make the right choice in choosing what kind of education I want.

Are you a graduate student in engineering? Have you considered going to grad school? Did you start working after you finished your undergrad and then decided to go back to school? What do you think of grad school? Leave a comment below on your thoughts!

Friday, 11 January 2013

Engineering Methods in Life

Design, build, fix, as engineers this is what we spend the majority of our time doing. We enjoy problems, we enjoy solving problems, contemplating issues and devising eloquent solutions for them. I am sure that if more political types were engineers the nations of the world would run much smoother. There are a lot of situations in life where engineering best practices and methodologies can be easily applied and the results positive; however, there are those times when these applications produce somewhat undesirable, if not comical results.

To me some of the most humorous situations arise when engineering concepts are applied to social situations. I had a college friend who spent weeks designing a dating flowchart, that he was convinced would help him improve his success with woman. He never told any of the women who he went out with about his flow chart, or that it was a work in progress, though he did a good job of keeping true to the process. Oddly enough he is still single, but when we get together he always has the best stories about the single life. My understanding is that he is still working on perfecting his process; though he is in graduate school now working on a MS in systems engineering so maybe he can tie it into his thesis somehow.

I have had periods in my life when I have allocated a fair amount of time to exercising; and of course the engineer in me took over each of those times. I would do ample research on the best ways to work out and the types of things I should be doing in order to get the most out of each movement. Then I would start keeping a gym journal, and as I would thumb through the journal at night I would find areas where my data collection could improve. So, I would add more fields, then I started keeping timed records, by this point I think I was spending more time collecting data at the gym then actually working out. Before I knew it I was maintaining several spreadsheets of data and trying to figure out the best way to run a statistical analysis on my data. On the bright side, I am sure the people at the gym got a kick out of watching me fuss over my notebook after each and every exercise.

No matter how we apply our engineering knowledge we will learn something from the experience, sometimes even more so when the undertaking is not successful. Even though my friend is still single he has learned a lot about dating from working on his process, and I am sure he will meet the one for him at some point. And even though my excessive record keeping in the gym hindered my workouts at the end, it did help me to optimize much of what I was doing at the gym, so if I ever decide I want to work out that much again I will have solid experience to build upon. So, no matter what problem you might be facing do not be afraid to unleash your engineering mindset on it and be sure to let us know how it turns out.

This blog post was written by Dana Blouin who is a telecommunications engineer, technologist and geek currently living and working in Cleveland, OH, USA.

Feel free to leave a comment about what you think. Have you ever applied the skills you learned in engineering in real life/world situations?

Saturday, 5 January 2013

The Social Stigmas of Engineering

With every conversation with whoever it may be, every conversation tends to stray towards education: what, where and why you are studying what you are studying. I'm not sure about you engineering students out there, but I sometimes double take whenever someone asks me what I'm studying in school. Now, I'm not the type of person to actually care about what other people think of me (u mirin brah?) but we all have to accept the fact that there is a social stigma out there for people pursuing an education in Engineering.

That is, Engineering students tend to:

- Have no social life

- Constantly study

- Have an absence of female individuals in the faculty of Engineering

- Are just dope as hell

*Warning: All of the above points may be completely true

So basically, whenever someone asks about what you're studying in college/university, you have two choices essentially. You can take the easy way out and dance around the fact that you're in Engineering, effectively avoiding the nuisances which I'll outline in a second. However, if you do decide to be honest and admit that you're studying Engineering, here's what a typical conversation will be like:

Them: So, what are you studying?

Me: Uhhh... I'm studying _____ Engineering at _______.

Them: HOOOOLY! That's really tough man, how do you do it?

Me: I don't know honestly.. I cry every night while slitting my wrists. It provides lubrication for the rectal violations that occurs on a daily basis.

Them: Oh I see. Do you actually like what you're studying?

Me: I don't know, leave me alone! *Runs away crying*

Note: The above conversation was completely hypothetical. No pandas were hurt in this process.

Basically, there are intrinsic core values that are associated with Engineering, like it or not. Hell, I'm studying Engineering and I'll admit most of the stuff that I outlined at the top of this article is true, though we as Engineers joke about it a lot (refer to photos in Engineering Memes Facebook group). I have the opportunity to interact with a lot of strangers on a daily basis due to the nature of my part time job and there's usually two common reactions to which people have when you tell them you're studying Engineering:

1) Shocked

- Usually in awe of how a person is dumb enough to pursue an education in a grueling field of study such as Engineering

- Shocked at the presence of greatness they are witnessing of someone pursuing a god- tier field of study such as Engineering

- Common Phrases: "Isn't that really hard?", "How do you do it?", "Do you even sleep?"

2) Impressed

-Doesn't really follow the trend of this article, these type of people are usually impressed at the fact that you are studying Engineering and will compliment you accordingly

- Common Phrases: "You must be really smart", "You're going to be rich once you finish your studies.", "Your parents must be proud." Most of the time, I'll usually get the latter reaction. Sometimes, a mix of the two. I'm not really surprised that I get the "impressed" reaction most of time, due to the notoriety that Engineering entails being one of the more difficult undergraduate degrees one can pursue.

I do speak from personal experiences; however, I do understand that depending on the types of people you interact with will result in different types of reactions. I'd like to ask you all then, what are the types of reactions you get when you tell people that you're studying Engineering? Are they corroborative with the social stigmas associated with Engineering? Or are they more positive? Please let us know in the comments section below.

This post was written by James Reyes and he is currently studying Mechanical Engineering at Ryerson University located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013


Any engineer or future engineering student has encountered what "Prerequisite's" are. It is the long list of classes that any engineering student must accomplish to receive a Bachelors in Engineering. Yes, the list seems very intimidating at first, and in all honestly, the path is not easy.

However they are important. Very important.

If you fail you'll have to go back and retake the course or if you do poorly it may effect your marks in future.

This list of classes determines your fate as an engineer. Each class must be passed with a C or above. If you are to fail any of these classes, that can result in utter destruction. The failing of any pre-req's will disqualify your eligibility to move onto upper level classes. Not being able to complete higher level math classes will put a stop to your career as an engineer.

The importance of pre-req's will continue to grow as you further progress in your engineering major. Every pre-req is ultimately a precursor to the next class. The classes are set up so that every aspect of engineering is broken down and students can take this information one class at a time, and in doing so, students understand material that will later on assist in their studies.

The pre-req's path is not easy whatsoever. However they are set to help guide you as a future engineer, to be able to make decisions. They are very important and as a student you must do everything possible to prepare yourself to pass these pre-req classes. As you progress in your studies, studying several days for exams to pass pre-req's are very common amongst engineering majors.

Do not let that scare you though. As an engineering major or thinking about pursuing an engineering degree, you must be creative and innovative throughout your career. You must be able to think outside of the box to create and construct new innovations that will better society.

Just remember that as an engineering student, at the top of your to-do list should be to pass all of your pre-req's. They are the most important aspect of being an engineer. Your career as an engineer relies on your ability to understand and comprehend the material of these pre-req's. Good luck in your studies!

This post was written by Mikey Rivas a mechanical engineering student at California State University Long Beach. He lives in Loas Angeles, CA and he is the first in his family to pursue a career in engineering.