Meet Andrea Palmer, B.A.Sc. '15, Mechanical Engineering

"I will continue to ask tough questions, challenge what I am told, and seek opportunities that allow me to have a positive impact."
Applied Science Class of 2015

What has made your time at UBC the most memorable?

Everything I have been of part of at UBC has been memorable – from late night study sessions with other engineers in Totem in first year, to working with Engineers Without Borders (EWB), Women in Engineering (WiE), student teams, and the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS). The first time I saw the Thunderbots (soccer-playing robots) move by themselves in real life was incredible. Grinding through MECH 2 was one of the most challenging experiences I have done, but taught me so much about myself. However, my experience in New Venture Design has probably been my most memorable – and life-changing – experience at UBC.

Why did you choose Engineering?

I chose engineering because I was good at math and physics, and wanted to apply it. To be honest, I had no idea what engineering was when I applied to UBC. I quickly fell in love with it after taking a first-year programming class (APSC 160) and being exposed to a whole new way of thinking and looking at the world during MECH 2.

Tell me about your experience in Engineering. What have you learned that is most valuable?

One of the most valuable things I have learned in engineering is to push my capacity as an individual and what my limits are. In first year, I had a habit of signing up for anything I found interesting, but quickly discovered I can’t do everything. I learned I will always find time for the initiatives that are the most important to me, so I should spend my time where I can have the biggest impact.

How are you applying the skills you learned through your studies at UBC?

Engineering is about more than just technical skills – it’s a way of thinking, a way of approaching problems from a different perspective. Looking back at the past six (yes, six) years, I know that my way of problem-solving – a skill I use every day – has completely changed.

What has been your most memorable/valuable non-academic experience studying engineering at UBC?

Although I did not go on exchange, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to travel through my involvement at UBC. For different conferences and competitions, I travelled to Toronto (three times), Calgary (twice), Regina (twice), Montreal, Kelowna, Yellowknife, Edmonton, Halifax, Provo (Utah), Istanbul (Turkey), Mexico City, Eindhoven (the Netherlands), Mannheim (Germany), Glasgow (Scotland), and Cambridge (England).

How do you feel a degree in Engineering has benefitted you compared to a different field of study?

I almost enrolled in a double degree in math and physics, but chose engineering instead. Although I didn’t know it then, I don’t think I would have been satisfied learning the theory without understanding the applications. I think the ‘applied’ aspect of engineering is what makes engineering unique.

What advice would you give a student considering Engineering?

I almost went into the Faculty of Science, but was told it is easier to start in engineering and transfer out but is not easy to do it the other way around (I don’t actually know if that’s true, but that is what convinced me to try engineering). I have since learned engineering has the ability to open so many doors, and give you very unique opportunities. I highly recommend trying engineering. With that said, engineering is no walk in the park – you definitely have to be willing to commit.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I find my inspiration everywhere – from finding new learning opportunities, talking with my friends and family, reading the news. There are always challenges that need to be tackled and problems that need to be solved.

What are your plans for the future--immediate? Long-term?

This summer I have the incredible opportunity to be part on the 2015 class of the Graduate Studies Program at Singularity University. I’ll be living at the NASA Research Centre with some of the smartest minds on the planet with the mission to solve humanity’s biggest challenges through exponential technologies – so cool.

In parallel and for the future, I’ll be working with an amazing team to develop Reveal – smart clothing to measure anxiety in children with autism.

How will you go on to make a difference in our world?

I will continue to ask tough questions, challenge what I am told, and seek opportunities that allow me to have a positive impact.