Materials engineering to mind engineering

“Keep an open mind, challenge yourself, and explore new possibilities. Be surprised in unexpected ways.”

UBC Materials Engineering student Gauri Taneja smiles for the camera while seated at the beach with ocean and mountains in the distance.

Gauri Taneja

I clearly remember the day when my dad woke me up one morning, holding my acceptance letter, his eyes beaming with joy. My excitement knew no bounds. My first year at UBC came with its unique challenges. I struggled with my coursework and at one point, I didn’t even know if I would make it to the second year.

While failure can be a painful experience, it can be transformational as well. It was a turning point as it helped me forge a passion for sparking social change on a systemic level. I joined Engineers Without Borders, where I co-founded a wellness venture to help students transition to a new environment away from home.

I was blessed to be an Equity Ambassador in the Faculty of Applied Science, where I developed equity, diversity, inclusion, and indigeneity (EDII) framework, curriculum, and programs. Within a few months, I recognized that this was my calling and career path.

From leading a design team and EDI initiatives to building surgical tools and a wonderful community, my university experiences have been deeply enriching.

I would like to thank my family, partner, and friends for the constant love and support.

Why did you choose to go into your field of study at UBC?

From the results of my first google search of Canadian universities, of the varied options, I instantly knew I wanted to attend UBC.  Perhaps it was the breathtaking beauty of Vancouver that drew me to UBC. As I further explored the university, I noticed the emphasis on hands on learning – projects, design teams, clubs, and extracurriculars. Aside from its high ranking in engineering, the plethora of opportunities outside the classroom is what attracted me to UBC. Forging knives to empowering youth; pottery to sports and music – UBC is quite likely to offer what one is searching and inspiring for. If one can’t find it, there is a support system to create something of own.

What has made your time at UBC memorable?

My time at UBC was made memorable by the amazing people that I met – everyone has incredible stories and perspectives to offer. Time and time again, I was inspired by my peers, colleagues, friends, professors, and mentors. The strong sense of community and support that I built is something I will cherish.

I would like to thank our EDII leadership family: Dr. Sheryl Staub-French, Sara Buse, Pamela Wolf, Dr. Chad Sinclair, Minoli Navaratnam, Greg Lockwood, Dana-Lyn Mackenzie, and Soundous Ettayebi for being nurturing mentors and for supporting me through my journey.

Another aspect that I will remember is spending time in the heart of nature. I spent the majority of the pandemic in my dorm at UBC - strolling around campus with my camera capturing the seasons, running down to Tower beach to watch sunsets and read, quiet moments of reflection with a cup of coffee at the rose garden.

What advice would you give a student entering your degree program?

Advice that I wish I knew entering UBC:

  1. Keep an open mind regardless of the engineering department you get into. Ultimately, your degree is what you choose to make of it. Even if something doesn’t fit into what you “should be” doing, take a chance. You might surprise yourself with what you enjoy/don’t enjoy doing.  We are at an exciting phase in terms of diverse career possibilities and interdisciplinary roles.
  2. Take advantage of the concrete support system in place for you. Reach out to your instructors/TAs for help. While it may appear to be beyond bounds, it is quite reachable.
  3. Invest your time and energy in meaningful connections and conversations to build a strong network.
  4. In my experience as a university student and a young adult, I often saw myself through different lenses - an arduous student, a friend, a colleague, an engineer, a leader, etc. I encourage you to take a step back and reflect to discover and build yourself outside of these roles.  My time at UBC was not only successful because of my accomplishments, but because I embarked on the beautiful journey of showing up as my true authentic self.

Tell us about your experience in your program. What have you learned that is most valuable?

Resilience and problem-solving abilities – crucial elements of a survival toolkit that the UBC Engineering program added to my skillset. I learned how to design material for the satellite that one day will go within touching distance of the sun; at the same time, I got wings to fly with the EDII value system. I chose the latter. As contrary as these two avocations may seem, the value system in the Engineering program let me make a better choice.

What are some contributions you would like to make when it comes to the future of work in your field?

I would like to develop strategic frameworks, competencies, and metrics for equity, diversity, inclusion, and indigeneity (EDII) in any organizational setting. To me, the capabilities of EDII are endless and the need of the hour. I would like to contribute to change that fosters stronger companies, equitable access to resources, better policies, and brave spaces. 

Find me on: Instagram LinkedIn

UBC materials engineering student at a co-op placement at Vector Aerospace

Materials Engineering

What’s it made of and why? If you ask these questions about the products that surround you or dream about creating the building blocks for substances that haven’t yet been invented, you should explore materials engineering.

Materials Engineering

Explore Equity, Diversity, Inclusion + Indigeneity in UBC Applied Science

Commit to creating a community where human rights are respected and equity is embedded in all areas of academic, work and campus life.

Learn more about Applied Science EDI.I

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UBC Applied Science students are people who are passionate about their chosen field — architecture, landscape architecture, community and regional planning, engineering and nursing — and those that inspire others by making meaningful contributions to the betterment of society.

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