Broadening the scope of students’ educations – engineering program leads the way

Spring 2011

The Faculty of Engineering is committed to producing a new breed of professional engineer who is fully equipped to compete in today’s global marketplace.

To help meet that goal, McGill Engineering offers a broad range of programs and services that complement the academic training  undergraduate students receive in the classroom.

The intent is to broaden the scope of our students’ education so that they leave McGill fully prepared for work in the real world.

Mechanical Engineering student Karen Bodie interned in the biomechanics laboratory at the University of Calgary’s McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health. Bodie is pictured here working with a FARO Arm Coordinate Measuring Machine. The institute’s goal is to provide pain-free mobility for life. McCaig researchers and clinicians deal with all aspects of patient comfort — employing tools that run from basic science at the molecular level to whole-joint transplants. (Photo - Karen Bodie)

Electrical and Computer Engineering student Uros Simovic interned in Qatar for the multinational consulting firm, Energoprojekt Entel. He is seen here 45 metres above ground during an overhead line insulator site acceptance test. The 400 kV OHL tower Simovic is inspecting forms part of a 21-kilometre transmission line being built for Phase VIII of a Qatar Power Transmission System expansion to meet growing energy demands in the emirate. The line runs from the Ras Laffan C. Power Plant to the Umm Birka Super substation. (Photo - Uros Simovic)

This “add-on” professional training is provided through a multi-functional facility called the McGill Engineering Student Centre – MESC for short.

The highly successful unit is financed almost entirely through donor gifts.

Besides offering student advising services, awarding scholarships and providing access to research opportunities, the MESC’s primary focus is to help undergraduate students learn professional skills, gain on-the-job engineering experience and market themselves more effectively for jobs in industry. For example:

• Industry Liaison Managers organize four- to sixteen-month internships and mentoring programs that expose students to everyday industry situations and practices. Future McGill engineers are given the opportunity to put their academic knowledge to practical use. They rub shoulders with CEOs and senior engineering professionals, gaining insights into engineering trends and issues and building a network of business contacts to assist them in finding jobs after graduation.

• Workshops and seminars are held every week on topics such as time management, project management, making presentations, communicating to others, group facilitation and rules of etiquette.

• High-profile CEOs and other industry leaders help students focus on career choices through an “Engineers-in-Action Speaker Series” that provides senior managers with opportunities to share their passion and vision for leadership and engineering.

• Coaching and workshops to find employment are provided on topics such as mock interviews, résumé writing and detailed job-search techniques. The program enables students to connect early with future employers and improve their chances of finding summer jobs, internships and permanent employment. The intent is to provide Faculty of Engineering students with a sense of direction and a dose of reality about what lies ahead.

Chemical Engineering student Sarah Waseem interned as an environmental monitoring technician at a Teck Metals Ltd. installation in Trail, British Columbia. Teck’s Trail Operations facility includes one of the world’s largest, fully integrated zinc and lead smelting and refining complexes. The plant produces a variety of precious and specialty metals, chemicals and fertilizer products. (Photo - Sarah Waseem)

Many of the activities described above are led by industry professionals. In fact, corporate participation is increasing year by year.

Rémi Dion (left) interned for the Wind Energy Institute of Canada (WEICan) at the institute’s 38-acre research facility at North Cape, Prince Edward Island. The Electrical and Computer Engineering student worked as a wind system technical assistant responsible for troubleshooting and data analysis. Dion is pictured here with fellow interns Jamie Kilkenny (centre) and Gabriel Gaultier (right) atop a 50-metre-high V47 wind turbine. (Photo - Rémi Dion)

The number of students opting for at least one internship during their studies here has also jumped considerably.

The participation rate rose from 15 per cent in 2007 to 36 per cent last year.

The MESC’s activities have had such a powerful impact on students that other McGill faculties are considering establishing similar, broad-based services.

Faculty of Engineering Dean Christophe Pierre made student services a key priority when he arrived at McGill in 2005, and he says he is proud and gratified that “our Faculty has been recognized for the leading role it is playing in promoting these types of essential student services.”

“Now that we’ve shown what the MESC can do, our objective is to build a sufficient pool of endowed and direct-funded gifts to ensure the centre’s long-term operation.”

Mining Engineering Co-op student Stephen Coates worked last summer for Osisko Mining Corporation near Malartic, in Quebec’s Abitibi region. Coates was assigned to a 55,000-ton-per-day mineral processing complex the firm is building there. He also witnessed the start-up of what is to be Quebec’s largest open pit gold mine. The picture of the six-foot-tall student speaks for itself. (Photo - Stephen Coates)

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