Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summer Adventures on (and off) Campus!

The summer has just been flying by! I can't believe it's already the end of June!
Genna making a material to administer
drugs to the eye through contact lenses.

Once again I'm working in Dr. Heather Sheardown's lab for the summer, although not the same project as last year. If you're wondering what I was working on last year, check out a blog I wrote about my lab adventures in Keeping an Eye on Things

This year I'm investigating silicone contact lenses for drug delivery to the eye. We know that these contact lenses release the drug at a certain rate, but we don't know why. Is it a factor of the drug being trapped in the material, or is it because the drug is binding to the monomers in the polymer chain? That's what I'm researching this summer. Basically, I get to make a bunch of different materials (with different drugs and in different compositions) and test the amount of drug they’ll release in water. After a lot of complicated equations and statistical analysis I can determine which composition is ideal for drug delivery.

I'm so excited to be working in this area of research because I think the possible applications of these lenses are astounding. Imagine getting an eye infection or eye surgery and instead of having to put annoying drops in your eye, you can just wear your contacts and the problem solves itself!

Enough about work; let's talk about all the fun stuff going on around campus over the summer! As you can imagine all this rain has brought out the best of nature. Now, this may be terrifying news for you allergy sufferers, but for those of us who love going for hikes through Cootes Paradise it's amazing! There's nothing more relaxing than taking a leisurely stroll through the park with some good friends.  If you want to hear more about my exciting summer adventures, I've recently been featured in a video, Mac Eng: Reel Talk with Genna!

There are some other exciting things going on in Mac Eng as well. Last week, the Faculty of Engineering released a mini-documentary Women in Engineering: Our Global Future, that was shown to the delegates at the G(irls) 20 Summit in Russia. It highlights women in engineering and their potential career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math, known as “STEM”. Dr. Sheardown is interviewed and provide some compelling facts and insights about the pressing need for women in these fields. See if you can spot my cameo appearance :)

Anywhoo, I guess I should get back to work. These contact lenses won't make themselves!

~ Genna

Monday, June 17, 2013

Women in Engineering: Our Global Future

Ciao everyone!
Elaine Kunda being filmed by Double Barrel Studios
Elaine Kunda being filmed by Double Barrel Studios.

I cannot believe that we are already in the middle of June! I'm sure those of you that are in high school are busy studying for your final exams, wishing it was summer already and getting ready for university in the fall.

I have some very exciting news to share with all of you today.  Over the past few weeks, I was given the opportunity to help create a professional mini-documentary! That’s right, a professional video, with a director, producer, director of photography, camera crew and make-up artists.

This video, Women in Engineering: Our Global Future, was created in partnership with the G(irls) 20 Summit in Russia, produced by Double Barrel Studios and hosted by Elaine Kunda, a McMaster alumna. The summit, which is taking place in Moscow right now, brings together delegates from each of the G20 countries and the African Union.  The delegates discuss and design innovative ideas to empowering girls and women globally.  Then they present these ideas to G20 Leaders.  The best part is that these young ladies are all between the ages 18-20!

Left to Right: Mridula, Nilanthy and Maureen showing us their robot bugs.
L to R: Mridula, Nilanthy and Maureen showing us their robot bugs.
You will see interviews with Mridula & Nilanthy in the video. 
I really wish I could have gone to the summit to meet such forward thinking young women!

The video is all about encouraging young girls to study in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.  Being a woman in engineering, encouraging more girls to study in STEM fields is a cause I love supporting.

The G(irls) 20 Summit is streaming online live today and tomorrow (June 17th - 18th). If you have a few free minutes, you should check it out here. There are some very cool speakers.

Until next time,

... Oh you are still here, did you want to see the video I helped make? You can view Women in Engineering: Our Global Future right here. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Bombardier Aerospace: Taking my Education to New Heights

Back in Grade 12, when I first applied to attend McMaster University, I was skeptical about pursuing engineering. I wondered if it was really for me or if I was choosing a completely wrong path. So, I chose to enter the engineering co-op program so that I could begin to learn first-hand whether or not this career path was a good fit. As first year came to a close, I found out that I was successful in my application to the materials science and engineering stream and the engineering & management program. I felt ‘wide-eyed and bushy-tailed’ with excitement about my future!
My view walking into work every morning

I had applied for an engineering co-op position at Bombardier Aerospace in early January and was extremely excited and honoured to receive my offer letter in mid-April. I began my position in May and have been working Monday to Friday ever since. All of the student interns are given some sort of project to work on over the 600 hour period that they must complete over the summer.  My position is within the maintenance programs and planning sector, one of three sub-sections of the maintenance engineering department.

Editing PCTEL files at my desk
At Bombardier, we maintain computer records known as “PCTEL” files (parts, consumables, tools, equipment, labour). These files contain the information on the tasks required to adequately maintain different plane models, which is a very important procedure. This is where I come in! My job is to update these files based on the most recent revisions, and improve the automation of how they’re updated. I’ll be working with Excel and Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) to complete this task.

So far, I’ve been extremely happy with the warm and welcoming environment around the office. Bombardier has nearly 5,000 staff members on-site and every single one that I’ve had the opportunity to interact with has been respectful and caring. I found that a lot of the staff are very unique and encourage humour around the office! When I’m not working away on the PCTEL files, I might be attending daily meetings featuring conference calls to Montreal, getting a tour of some of the 1.8 million sq. ft. of production space or learning the acute importance of building strong relationships with those you meet in the workplace.

Bombardier & WestJet celebrate the delivery of the Q400 planes
Just the other day, I got my first opportunity to interact with members of the materials and processing department. The people I met with were all so willing to tell me everything about what they do; they gave me amazing material to read (*pun intended) and offered me the opportunity to tag along with them in the labs and on site from time to time. I even met a woman who graduated from McMaster’s materials engineering program just a few years ago! This job has been an unbelievable opportunity thus far and I know it will just continue to get better as time goes on. Of course, I cannot possibly say that I know for a fact that engineering is right for me based on my three weeks of work, but I can say this much – I haven’t felt this passionate about something in a long time. I simply cannot wait to continue to learn and grow as an engineer. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

School's out for Summer!

I don’t know if you guys know this yet, but in university, you get… wait for it… a FOUR MONTH SUMMER! (Cue cheering and fireworks) So, while you lovely people are finishing up classes and staring out the window while your teacher tries to fill the last weeks of school, we post-secondary kids are well into our summer vacations. (Sorry!)

Four months is a good chunk of time. What can you do to make the most of it? Here are some ideas to get you started:

1) Get a job
Last summer, I worked for the Government of Ontario.
Summer is a great opportunity to get some work experience. Co-op jobs are available for the summer, and many companies offer summer-long placements to take advantage of the student talent. As an example, I am working for the Bank of Montreal as an intern this summer.  Jobs also give you some income to pay for school.

2) Do active stuff
I don’t know about you, but my Facebook newsfeed is full of my friends participating in races, obstacle courses and other really cool exercising opportunities! Tough Mudder and Run or Dye are pretty common ones. Get some friends together and spend a day sweating! If getting covered in dye or swimming in ice cold water doesn’t sound appealing, you could try recreational sports or join a yoga class.

3) Get to know your city/town
Since the weekends are no longer full of studying, they are a great opportunity to adventure around your hometown or closest city. Try and uncover those “hidden gems”; whether that may be a restaurant, natural feature (like a stream) or just chat it up with some people who work in local stores. One cool thing to do is get on a bus and see where it takes you.

4) Pick up a book
This summer, I am determined to read the books I should have read in high school. In high school, we got a long reading list and I only ever read what was required for assignments. So far I have read Animal Farm by George Orwell and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. (I’m also making my way through Knightfall Volume 1, a Batman comic, but I don’t think it has ever showed up on a high school reading list)

Books, books, comics!
And most importantly…

5) Talk to current undergraduate students about what to expect at university
Summer is a great chance to learn about what to expect when you start at McMaster in September! We upper years have a little more free-time on evenings and weekends and are here to answer your questions. The Ask anUndergraduate Engineer program is run by the McMaster Engineering Society, and it pairs up incoming students (that’s you!) with upper-year engineering students via e-mail. Send a message to if you are interested!

When that school bell rings for the last time, make the most of your summer! Good luck on your exams! You'll kill it! :)

Later days,