For my chemistry project, I wanted to look into chemistry careers and how chemistry can be applied in the world. To do this, I went to an engineering workshop at UBC!
At first, I honestly I didn’t know what to expect. I was excited to learn about chemistry as a career but I wasn’t sure if I would have a good time or if I would be too nervous to get anything out of it.
It was said beforehand that we weren’t allowed to take pictures of the labs so I didn’t bring my camera, however I did take a notebook and took diligent notes throughout the day!
The activities I completed during the day was as follows:
- First we began with a general welcome and introduction followed with an ice breaker activity
- Presentation by a engineering student on the process of solving problems by applying science
- Workshop which we completed in teams of four
- PhD professor did a presentation of engineering and science
- Long break for lunch and I interviewed a student
- Next we split into groups for two tours
- While wrapping up I spoke with another student
- End of the day!
The first activity we did after the introduction was an engineering student gave a presentation on the engineering problem solving process. I really liked this presentation as I had never heard of the problem solving process before so I learned something new.
The next activity we did was a hands-on workshop friendly competition. We were put into groups of four were given a clear bin which was our ‘house’ and 40 ‘dollars’ which could be used to buy various materials (such as cups, aluminum foil, tape, etc.) The challenge was to create a water collection system. A watering can would be used to pour water over the ‘house’ as ‘rain’ and we had to build a system that collected as much water as possible.
Although it didn’t relate to chemistry, I found this workshop quite helpful to simulate the kind of work engineers do. The other three members of my group were complete strangers, but we actually got along quite well and spent the least amount of money out of all the groups.
Next up a professor gave a presentation. Her presentation was all about how any area of science is connected to engineering. Something that stuck out to me is when she talked about the difference between studying science and studying engineering. She used chemistry as an example, saying “Studying chemistry teaches you about the textbook knowledge of chemistry and is all about research. Alternatively, studying chemical engineering like I did is about applying that knowledge to create new tools and solve real world problems.”
When it was time for questions she talked more about her job and her education. She got a bachelor’s in chemical engineering, studied pharmaceutical chemistry for her masters, and got a PhD in using technology to help bones. She currently is a professor at UBC and is researching how hip bones deteriorate over time and how this can be prevented.
Next we had a break for lunch where some of the engineering students would be available to talk. Each of them had a label with what area of engineering there were studying. I noticed there was a girl who’s label read “Chemical and Biological Engineering” and I immediately wanted to talk to her. I was extremely nervous but I invited her to eat lunch with me and I told her about the chemistry exploration project. She was very excited that we were interested in the same things and agreed to let me interview her. She was so kind and this quickly became the highlight of my day!
NOTES: (considering the interview was so long, I didn’t take too many notes because I felt like I was learning more by just paying attention and taking in the conversation)
The more we talked the more confidence I gained, and I peppered her with questions. Lunch break was almost an hour and a half, and we talked the whole time! We covered many topics, I asked her about her life at UBC, what its like to be a chemical engineering student, what classes she takes, what she likes about chemical engineering, etc. She also asked about me so I told her about TALONS, and that I intend to pursue chemistry post secondary. I am so glad I interviewed her, as this became the most rewarding experience of the day and I learned so much!
Next we had our two tours.The first was a general tour around some of the buildings. We saw the following:
- Chemical and Biological Engineering Building (2360 East Mall)
- Chemistry (2036 Main Mall)
- Chemical Engineering (2216 Main Mall)
- Civil and Mechanical Engineering (6250 Applied Science Lane) – side note: I found it quite funny that the road name was literally ‘applied sciences lane’
- Pharmaceutical Sciences Building (2405 Wesbrook Mall)
It was really interesting to walk around campus and see these buildings. I couldn’t believe how huge everything was!
We then split up into two groups: the first group would see an aerodynamics lab and the second group would see a chemical/biomedical lab. Obviously I joined the second group as it was much more pertinent to the project.
The second tour was to a lab that a company was using to create machines that were attempting to remove the cancer DNA from regular DNA to try to create a cure. We actually got to go inside the lab and meet the leader of the company and see the machines. He showed us two prototypes of the technology, the actual current version of the machine and an opened-up version to explain how it works. When there was time for questions I asked him what one would have to study to have this kind of job and he said you would definitely need to study chemical and biological engineering, along with physics and biology.
It was so cool to see a real-life laboratory and see this cutting edge technology being created! This lab tour was my second highlight of the day.
The second tour group was running late and after the workshop ended I had to wait for my parents, so during this wrap-up time I spoke with another student! Again, I told him about my project and he was more than happy to answer my questions.
He is a 2nd year chemical engineering student. He also plans to get a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. He talked a lot about the courses he is taking and I also asked about some of the things he is currently learning.
And that was my day at UBC!
Throughout the day, I had two presentations, one general tour, one lab tour, and two interviews. I am quite proud that I managed to do so many things for this project. The major things I learned was about chemical engineering careers and student life studying chemical engineering post secondary.
Despite at first not knowing what to expect and being nervous that it wouldn’t turn out well, I can confidently say that it exceeded all my expectations. I learned so much first hand information that I would never get to experience in a classroom. It was amazing speaking with university chemistry students and visiting a real, professional lab. What a successful inquiry project!