Friday, December 2, 2011

Get Discipline'd (Daniela)

Happy December Everybody!

As first term winds down, and exams get revved up for university students, a lot of first year engineers are trying to figure out what discipline they might want to get into next year. Well, have no fear, I can tell you a little bit about the discipline that has become very close to my heart over the past 3 months: Chemical Engineering.

When I was in high school, I immediately assumed that chemical engineering was all about the chemistry. As it turns out, that's not completely true. Chem eng is about systems, processes, and if you so choose, polymers. We only take about 2 or 3 organic chemistry courses. My favourite course this term, CHEM ENG 2D04, is mainly about “black boxes”. What that means is you are trying to figure out the input and output streams of a system (like the image above). It’s pretty cool!

The other great thing about chemical engineering at Mac is you have options even within the discipline itself! You could get into one of three 5-year programs: Chemical and Bioengineering, Chemical Engineering and Society (WOO!) or Chemical Engineering and Management!

Realistically, not all of you want to go into chem eng, so here are some tips and tricks to help you figure out what discipline to get into after the common first year engineering program:

- Think about what courses you enjoy

- Check out the Undergraduate Calendar and see what types of courses you take in each type of engineering (Here’s the link:

- Talk to upper year students! (We don’t bite, I swear!)

- Attend any department nights that are held throughout the year. Profs and students put together info sessions about all of the disciplines to help make sure you that you get all of your questions answered and make the right choice!

… and last but not least, DO WHAT YOU ENJOY! Chances are, you’ll do a lot better if you actually love what you are learning!

Good luck with your studies and have a great winter break!
Later days,


Monday, November 14, 2011

Here Comes Santa Claus! (Daniela)

We are mid-way through November, and there is already the ring of the holidays in the atmosphere! The air is cooling down, and stores already have festive decorations lining the shelves.

McMaster Engineering got in on the holiday cheer action this past weekend. With some great support from the McMaster Engineering Custom Vehicle Team (MecVT) and the Baja Team, engineering students decked out in red and festive hats, walked along in the Hamilton Santa Claus Parade. We gave out candy canes to the eager kids waiting to see the big guy in red. You know the one; he’s got a long white beard, and a belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly: SANTA CLAUS!

Baja Vehicle racing down the centre of the street!

I couldn’t believe how many kids there were! Main Street was absolutely packed! And the parade was full of different things to see; from an elf pulled by a miniature pony, to Chinese Dragons, to McDonald’s characters, all the way to the big man himself! It was definitely a great way to spend a Saturday!
Engineering students riding in the Carpool and Carpool III.

So as classes wind down, and snow begins to cover the ground, don't let exams get you down! Remember the cheer of the season! Hope to see you out at the Hamilton Santa Claus Parade next year!

Later days,


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Making the Right Transition (Daniela)

Hello there!

About two years ago, I was looking to the future. It was time to figure out my post-secondary life. And let me tell you, it is definitely not an easy task.

This past weekend, I was representing McMaster at the Ontario University Fair, and it definitely brought me back to the times of university applications.

Seeing all the exhibitions from Ontario universities and some schools outside the province as well, really puts into perspective that each school has a different atmosphere and is right for someone. So here it is. Some advice from someone who’s been through the gruelling process:

Pick the program and the school that is right for you! Don’t worry about university rankings, or what your parents say you should get into. University is expensive… why would you want to pay so much for something you’re not really interested in?

For example, Mac Eng is the PERFECT place for me because I am able to take technical engineering courses as well as other courses that peak my interest and I’m part of an awesome community with helpful people and a tonne of opportunities!

Good luck with your final year of high school!
Later days,


Monday, October 3, 2011

And we're back! (Daniela)

Hello there!

Welcome to Hear it from Her! I bet you're wondering, "Who's the 'her'? My name is Daniela and I'm in my second year of Chemical Engineering and Society at McMaster University, and I have the honour and pleasure of writing for you this year. I like to do a lot of things in and around campus, and I hope to bring you some insights about life in Mac Eng!

Now that introductions are complete, I'd like to talk about one of my favourite times of the year: Back-to-School.

I know what you're thinking; "This girl is either insane or really enjoys buying stacks of paper and arrays of different coloured pens". But, there is a particular event, which concluded about a month ago, that combines different coloured coveralls, music, inflatables, and cheering to turn thousands of individuals into a family that deserves mention: Welcome Week.

I have been lucky enough to participate in Welcome Week two years in a row, once as a first year, and this time as a Frosh Controller, a representative for Engineering.

Coming in as a first year, it was an opportunity to get to know my school and faculty in the most exciting and engaging way possible! Cheering, games, meeting and building relationships with some amazing people! (I've been a camp counsellor for two summers, so naturally the outgoing nature of Welcome Week is right up my alley.) I know that Mac does welcomes well because I felt like I became a part of a new family. In fact, I didn't want Welcome Week to end.

This year, I was on the other side, trying to make sure that the new students coming in would start their University career feeling as comfortable as I did. I gotta say that I did not realize how much time and effort has to go into making a week awesome. Seriously, if you decide to come to Mac next Fall, you will not realize how much behind-the-scenes stuff goes on! But I digress. Although being a rep is totally different from being a first year, it was just as fun and just a rewarding. Indicators include: lost voice, sleep deprivation, new friends, and a constant smile on my face.

Here's some of my favourite stuff from Welcome Week 2011:

Favourite event:
GEK - Gulliver's Engineering Kickback
BBQ, music, swimming, rock wall, inflatables. 'Nuff said.

Memorable Moment:
Engineering students, new and old reciting the Oath at Faculty Fusion

Favourite Game:
Prom Date

Favourite Cheer(s):
McMaster Cheer: Maroon and Grey
Eng Cheer: Godiva

Anyways, I better cut myself off now! If you have any questions about Welcome Week or about Mac Eng, feel free to hit me up with a comment or an e-mail!

Later days,

Friday, April 22, 2011

Interview: Tara on the McMaster Solar Car!

Hi everyone, sorry the last posting was delayed because of exams. I know I talk about school a lot in these posts – it’s kind of why I’m here at Mac! – but there is a lot that goes on outside of classes, too. My friend Tara (a graduating Engineering Physics student, on the right in the picture shown), for example, is really involved with the McMaster Solar Car Project – a team that works together to design and build cars powered only by solar energy, and race against other vehicles from around the world. She answers some questions about her work with them below:

1) When and how did you first get involved with the McMaster Solar Car team?
In mid-March of 2009, I became acquainted with some of the members of the Solar Car team through casual conversation. A few weeks later they mentioned that they planned on doing their theses on the electrical/electro-mechanical sections of the solar car. I found this topic very interesting, and accepted an offer to complete my thesis on this work. I enjoyed the experience of working on the car so much that I have never left the team since.

2) What is your role within the team, and why?
In May 2010 I became one of the managers of the electrical team, co-managing along with another member. I was selected for this role because of my experience with the team through my thesis, active participation throughout the following year, and my ability to direct and delegate. In the meanwhile, one of the projects I took on was initiating an encapsulation process for solar cells. We have a small scale process completed right not and plan to have the full scale process running before the end of this summer.

3) What is the most challenging part of your involvement?
As a manager, the most challenging aspect has been motivating super-busy volunteers to meet a set of deadlines while struggling with funding for projects.

4) How do you balance work on the car with coursework?
Ever since I joined the McMaster Solar Car project, I have found that I have gained more enthusiasm towards my course work and have become stronger at time management. Despite the Solar Car team consuming much of my time, it has made it easier for me to organize myself – perhaps because I have gained a different appreciation for time. The motivation comes from seeing direct application of subjects we have learned about in school, as well as working alongside a strong group of motivated students who are team players and willing to share their knowledge and experience.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Iron ring! And summer plans

I promise - here on this blog - to update at least once a week for the rest of April! But wow, this last month has been crazy. The final race day for the robots; finishing my multiculturalism inquiry; the Kipling pranks (make sure to spot the Eng Phys ones - we rocked this year's Kipling), ceremony, and formal; and the piles and piles of paperwork for final reports. But it's finished now - hard to believe! - and I've just got a few short weeks to write some exams, make plans for the summer, pack up my stuff, and move out of my home of four years. But I like exams, because my time is my own and I can schedule it how I please. And there's a lot of social stuff organized, spending time with friends before we disperse and it gets much more difficult to meet up.

I also have travel plans for the summer, which are exciting! After running away for the past few summers to work overseas, I feel like I've missed out on learning more about my own country. This was part of the reason I chose to do my inquiry on multiculturalism, and Canada. So throughout May and June, I'm going to do a week-long roadtrip with Liz, Adri, and another housemate; visit a friend in Ottawa; and then head off to northern Quebec for five weeks to practice my french with the Explore program - at Alma, where there is a school with a music focus. Music and French were the two skills/interests I worried most about losing when I chose engineering, so it's kind of a perfect way to cap everything off. :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

...and we're back (sort of)

Sorry for the radio silence there; these last few weeks and the next two have been and will be insanely busy (ROBOTS).

I asked my friend Evan (also in Engineering Physics) a few questions about his final year inquiry, a research project that students in the Engineering & Society and Engineering & International Studies programs undertake in their final year. I'm presenting my own inquiry tomorrow, so time to work on that some more! Feel free to leave a comment or question below.

1) How would you describe your inquiry project?
I am proposing an analogy which says that the e-reader is related to the book like the mp3 player is related to the song. I am using a comparative approach to try to show how my findings are consistent, or inconsistent, with that analogy in an attempt to better understand my central question.

2) What is your central question?
Why has the adoption of e-readers into the consumer market made so little an impact compared to mp3 players?

3) Who are you working with to learn more about your research?
My supervisor is Dr. Qiyin Fang, who is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Physics. The inquiry topic that I wanted to pursue reminded me of a project that I completed in a course on optical instrumentation, which he taught.

4) Why did you choose the Engineering & Society program?
Throughout high school, I often thought of my communication skills, especially public speaking, as one of my weaknesses. I elected to complete the Engineering and Society option because I thought it would improve my aptitude in this area. I am very satisfied with my decision.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Photo time!

So we had a snow day this week! On Wednesday, too, which was awesome and made it feel like a Sunday in the middle of the week. In Hamilton we got about 30 cm of snow overnight, which is unusal for the area.

However, snow day or not schoolwork goes on (I actually only missed two hours of class that day because I have so many self-directed courses this term) and this weekend is still pretty busy. I spent Saturday in the lab soldering up a circuit for my final year design project and working on an assignment for my solar cells class wtih a partner. Later this afternoon I'm performing with the McMaster Concert Band, so I'm just going to keep it easy with the writing this week and share some photos with you. :)

Here's the Concert Band in rehearsal in University Hall, where we also perform:

Here's a photo of the snowman (and mini-snowmen) the eng phys students made in front of our worklab windows. He's wearing "plaid" because our project is to design a "lumberjack" (robot) that moves to stay on top of a log (rotating cylinder). We modeled it in snow:

Finally, here's my optics lab from this week - it's a setup to measure the thickness of films only a few hundred nanometres thick, using interference from reflections.

Monday, January 10, 2011

How one work term changed all of my plans

As I said in my last post, I have post-graduation plans! After doing a lot of hard thinking and program-comparing throughout the fall, I've decided to return to McMaster this September for graduate studies, pursuing a Master's of Applied Science. I'm excited to share because I submitted my online application today, and I worked on the supporting documents over the holidays so now I just need to make sure everything arrives at the department. It's funny how much I've changed in the four and a half years since starting undergraduate...I entered with absolutely no interest in doing graduate studies, and now I can't think of anything luckier than being paid to learn.

The turning point for me - and, to be honest, one of the happiest surprises of my life - arrived while working in Ireland on a co-op term. I was participating in an undergraduate research program at the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute (part of Dublin City University) in the summer of 2009, and I helped a researcher produce micro- and nano-channels for fluidics testing (the interactions between surfaces and fluids change at scales this small). Eventually, the channels were to be used for carrying biological samples in a device called a lab-on-a-chip. I had to test different materials to find the best one for stamping the channels (i.e. good reproduction of dimensions), and even though I wasn't passionate about microfluidics, I still couldn't believe how lucky I was to just learn, and have that be my job!

What completely changed my perspective was seeing an institute with connections to industry; before, I had thought that research was only learning for the sake of gathering knowledge (i.e. material properties like hardness when you change the composition) and hadn't bothered to learn otherwise. As it turns out though, many research groups work with companies to make the best use of their engineering, production, and marketing knowledge. I have to admit that travel had been my main motivation in applying for the program, but in the end my first research experience ended up having a huge influence on my goals and post-grad decisions.