Integrating Interests: The Road To Becoming A Geological Engineer

"I was drawn to engineering because of its practical applications and the way it integrates multiple disciplines, allowing me to combine my varied interests in a meaningful way."

Taylor Chisholm smiling

Taylor Chisholm

How did you become interested in engineering?

In high school, I was strong in math and physics, but I also had a strong interest in English and geography. This made choosing a university major very challenging! 

I was drawn to engineering because of its practical applications and the way it integrates multiple disciplines, allowing me to combine my varied interests in a meaningful way.

Questions about engineering

You graduated from high school in Thailand. Why did you choose UBC?

Having spent part of my childhood in Calgary, I always wanted to return to Canada. 

I knew how beautiful Vancouver was and UBC stood out to me because of its diverse international student body which I felt would provide a supportive transition. 

Additionally, UBC's wide range of engineering programs and its general first-year program appealed to me. This offered the flexibility to explore different areas before choosing a specific focus.

Foundation Year

First year advantage of engineering

How did you choose Geological Engineering?

In my first year there were presentations about the different engineering programs and there was one on Geological Engineering. I didn’t even know it was something you could pursue! I’d taken an earth science elective in first year and found myself reading up and learning more about earth science in my spare time, so that was a good indicator that geological engineering was where I belonged. 

Geological Engineering

You’re about to graduate. What stands out about your UBC experience when you look back on it? 

By saying yes to various opportunities in my second and third years, I laid the foundation for future endeavours. 

One highlight was my co-op experience, which directly influenced my capstone project. I was particularly proud to be part of an all-girl team focused on strategies for closing a mine tailing storage facility, a crucial issue in the industry. Proper closure is vital for environmental safety and sustainability. Our team combined our strengths and worked to tackle this complex project, expanding my knowledge and skills and underscoring the importance of teamwork and effective project management in engineering.


The importance of co-op

Tell us about your co-op experience.

Over 16 months of co-op I worked for Teck Resources in the Elk Valley and at Rio Tinto’s Diavik diamond mine in the Northwest Territories. These positions enabled me to experience the mining industry first-hand and helped me learn so much about myself, both as an individual and as a professional. These aren’t traditional 9-to-5 jobs! 

In Elk Valley, I experienced life in a small town with numerous outdoor activities, which was a refreshing change. At the Diavik mine, located about 200 kilometres from the Arctic Circle, I worked on a rotation of two weeks on and two weeks off, which was both challenging and rewarding.

Another significant aspect of my co-op experience was seeing what it’s like to be a woman in the mining industry. 

Initially I had concerns about this, but on site I was treated with full respect by all my co-workers and had the support of both male and female supervisors. This experience not only enhanced my technical skills but also gave me confidence in navigating a traditionally male-dominated field.

Teck Resources  Diavik  

Taylor's co-op

What extracurriculars have you been involved in?

I’ve been involved with GeoROX throughout my degree, and this year I was Co-President. Geological Engineering is a small and tight-knit program, which makes it fun to get involved and make contributions. I’ve also been a Jump Start orientation leader and a teaching assistant for three classes. 

When I look back at everything I’ve been involved in, I realize the common theme is trying to use my experiences to make it easier for the next wave of people coming along.


What skills do you think you’ve acquired during your degree?

I am much better at seeing the connections between different systems and I’ve developed strong problem-solving skills. 

There are many technical aspects to engineering, but as you get into your upper-level classes you also start to learn the value of communication and how important it is be able to clearly communicate technical ideas. As an engineer, you are interacting with so many groups of people who will have varying degrees of technical knowledge. Being able to understand and clearly explain engineering concepts is such a valuable skill.

Skills needed to succeed as an engineer
Taylor's capstone project

What’s next for you?

I graduated this May and have accepted a job offer at the Diavik mine, where I completed my most recent co-op. I will be working as a Graduate Closure Engineer, a role I'm very excited about because it focuses on projects that are leading the way in mine closure, including collaboration with local Indigenous communities. This position is a fantastic opportunity at this stage of my life.

I’m especially excited to continue working on projects I was involved with during my co-op and to be part of initiatives that set new standards in mine closure practices. 

Having loved my co-op experience at the mine, I look forward to gaining more professional skills in this role while still having the flexibility to live in Vancouver every two weeks. It’s the perfect balance between advancing my career and maintaining a connection to a city I love.

Reasons why engineering is a rewarding choice

Is there anything you’d like to achieve in your career?

Just like in my extracurricular roles, I always dive in headfirst, learn extensively and then strive to make things easier for those who come after me. I want to carry this approach into my career as well. 

Mining is one of the industries with the lowest number of females in C-suite positions, and I’d like to contribute to bringing more women into this program and industry.

UBC geological engineering student on a co-op placement at BC Research Inc.

Geological Engineering

UBC offers the Geological Engineering program in collaboration with the Faculty of Science, blending aspects of earth sciences, civil engineering and mining engineering with a fundamental understanding of the earth’s surface environments...

Geological Engineering

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