The Sky’s The Limit For Alyona

"People find success in many different areas, and you should study something you want to study for intrinsic reasons."

Alyona Glazyrina

Year: Final year as of December 2023

Why did you want to study engineering?

For the longest time I assumed I would go into archaeology. But just before the deadline to apply to UBC I started watching the original Star Trek and I realized what I really wanted was to design and build a starship. The only way to do that was by studying engineering!

 

How did you choose Mechanical Engineering?

Due to my interest in Star Trek, I wanted to study aerospace engineering. At the time I started my undergraduate degree, UBC didn’t have an aerospace engineering option, so I chose Mechanical Engineering with a focus on thermofluids as my closest option. As soon as the aerospace option within Mechanical Engineering was announced, I switched to that specialization.

Mechanical Engineering  Aerospace option

 

What are some highlights of your studies so far?

At the top of my list is my involvement in the UBC Mars Colony, a student design team that focuses on developing technology for colonizing Mars. I joined in first year and started working on a project to design a fuel plant that could use materials available on Mars to make a methane propellant that would make a return mission more feasible. COVID delayed some of our work on this project, but we were successful in creating a reactor capable of producing methane. 

In 2022 our group travelled to Paris for the annual International Astronautical Congress to present our fuel reactor project. 

It was a real confidence boost as a lot of people assumed this was part of a graduate project and were surprised that we had built this as a student design team. 

It was also an amazing experience to be at the conference and to meet engineers from around the world and from top space agencies. 

This year, I am the Captain of UBC Mars Colony, and we’re working on a project to build a chamber that simulates the atmospheric conditions on Mars. 

Through this team I have learned so much and gained experience in many areas of engineering years before the concepts were introduced in courses. For example, in second year, I had to learn computational fluid dynamics for the Mars Colony work, even though you don’t normally study this until fourth year. Getting to preview some of that material and learn from senior engineering students was really great. Now that I am captain of the design team, I am sharing my knowledge with others.

UBC Mars Colony

International Astronautical Congress

 

You went on an exchange to Delft – tell us about it!

Through UBC’s Coordinated International Experience, I went to the Delft University of Technology between February and July 2023.

I took a mix of master’s and undergrad courses that I was interested in, including a course on the design and analysis of composite structures and a course on the physics of planetary interiors. 

The course structure was quite different than UBC in that there were very few, of any, smaller assignments, projects and exams. Instead, you were graded by your performance on one final project or examination. While that does put a lot of pressure on your performance for that one assessment, it’s also a nice break not to have weekly assignments, midterms and the like. 

Some of the best parts of my exchange were the cultural elements of living in the Netherlands and experiencing a different academic and social culture. 

I loved the dependable and extensive train system and all the bike infrastructure with separate lanes and priority cross walks. Also, because I was only taking four courses – compared to six or seven at UBC – I had a lot more time to relax, explore museums and travel around Europe. 

Being at Delft affirmed for me that I’d like to pursue graduate studies there next year. I talked to some master’s students about the program and the projects they are working on, and it sounds fantastic – for example, the infrastructure and facilities include five different wind tunnels, including a hypersonic tunnel and two supersonic wind tunnels.

Coordinated International Experience

Delft University of Technology

graduate studies

Any idea of what areas of research you are interested in?

I’m interested in in-situ resource utilization and how we can use materials from space that aren’t readily available here on Earth. I’m also interested in alternate forms of propulsion in space, particular non-chemical rockets, such as solar sails, radioactive decay, or mass acceleration.

Any advice for high school students wondering about engineering?

Do what you love, not what you think will make others happy. 

People find success in many different areas, and you should study something you want to study for intrinsic reasons rather than because of pressure from others or to prove to yourself you can do it, even if you don’t love it. 

Finally, find your community. 

Actually, find multiple communities! I love being part of the Mars Colony team, and I am also part of Alpha Omega Epsilon sorority where I interact with women from a lot of different programs on campus. Most of my circle is made up of mechanical engineering students and it is sometimes nice to be with people who aren’t part of that world. 

Find me on:

LinkedIn
Two UBC mechanical engineering students prepare for the autonomous landing platform competition.

Mechanical Engineering

As a student in UBC’s Mechanical Engineering stream, you’ll begin by mastering the fundamentals, building a knowledge base in solid mechanics, fluid mechanics, dynamics, thermodynamics, vibrations, heat transfer, controls and design.As a student in UBC’s Mechanical Engineering stream, you’ll begin by mastering the fundamentals, building a knowledge base in solid mechanics, fluid mechanics, dynamics, thermodynamics, vibrations, heat transfer, controls and design.

Mechanical Engineering
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