Monday, March 9, 2015

Studying Engineering

On Professions

McGill University's Roddick Gates: This is the main entrance to the university's downtown
campus at Sherbrooke Street West and McGill College Avenue. The Arts Building, the focal
point
, was built in 1839 and is the oldest building on campus. During my student days, I used to
give tours of the campus to prospective students and their parents. We often met at these gates,
and this is where the tour both began and ended.
Photo Credit & Source: HerCampus

Picking a profession can be difficult, a daunting task, at a young age. I knew from an early age—I think I was eight or nine—that I wanted to work in the field of applied sciences, and engineering fit the bill. A few years later, when I found out that my older cousin, Gordon, was studying mechanical engineering at McGill University, I was more certain of my initial choice of professions.

My dad did not want me to become an engineer, or at least this was his initial view; his desire was that I become an accountant or some profession related to business or commerce. In short, a nice “Jewish profession.” These were on the short list of good professions that also included doctor, lawyer, dentist and businessman, or what one would today call an entrepreneur. (I did have an entrepreneurial spirit at a young age, but more on that in another post.)

And, yet, he accepted engineering as a viable and good profession once he understood what it was that engineers did and how they were viewed in society.  He said, “So, you want to become an engineer; I spoke it over with my friends, and they said it was a good profession. Arbetn shver.” This was easy: I always believed in working hard to gain something good and important. Although I was initially bothered that he had to get the “blessing” of his lantsman, I was later relieved that he endorsed my choice of professions. Moreover, and equally important, I wanted my father to be proud of me and my accomplishments.

Engineering is one of the professions considered important for advancing society, one of the four cited in STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math). If you want to study engineering, you should be not only above-average in math, but comfortable in problem-solving and in working with mathematical equations; you will take courses in advanced calculus and in partial differential equations, which you will use in most of your courses, including thermodynamics, heat transfer,  and fluid mechanics.

I took a look at the current course listing for the bachelor of engineering program at McGill University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering; and the required courses are quite similar to those of my time, more than three decades ago. This would confirm my view that the fundamentals of engineering remain the same.

Academically, engineering is tough; you will have little social life and spend most of your time at class, at labs, at the library or at home doing assignments. You will often feel overloaded and tired. This is something that will become a part of your life. Engineering is dedicated to hard work and problem-solving. No matter what profession or career you follow later on, no matter what professional path you take later on, the discipline of an engineering education will serve you for life.


McGill’s Macdonald Engineering Building: After a fire gutted the original building, it was
rebuilt in 1907; although not in view here, there is a phoenix rising from the ashes carved
on the
south wall,
McGill says on its website, “as a reminder of the fire and a symbol of rebirth.” This
building is adjacent to the Milton Gates and is one of two buildings dedicated to an engineering
education, the other being the McConnell Engineering Building, built in 1959.

Photo Credit: Dallas Curow
Source: McGill Faculty of Engineering

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