UBC Engineering: A program so nice, I joined it twice

"A chemical engineering degree can open many doors, and not all of them will say 'Chemical Engineering' on the outside."

Daniel McClement, Rising Star Fall 2022

Daniel McClement

I graduated from UBC’s Chemical and Biological Engineering undergraduate program in 2020. I loved my time in the department so much that I ended up staying for an additional two years to complete my Master's. My Master's research focused on how machine learning can be used to improve the control of industrial processes. During my time at UBC, I was a TA for first-year calculus tutorials and CHBE labs. I was also a long-time member of the school’s synthetic biology team (UBC iGEM). Outside of school, I spent my time volunteering at the BC Crisis Centre and Special Olympics BC, coaching hockey, and skiing Cypress Mountain. I have recently traded in my iron ring for a white coat and started studying medicine at the University of Alberta! 

Daniel McClement and his Engineering friends on the steps to his family cabin

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

Location, location, location. There are few places in the world more beautiful than Canada’s west coast. As a nature lover, I couldn’t have imagined a better place to study than Vancouver - where you have access to beautiful hiking trails and ski hills while also living in a vibrant city. 
When it came to my Master's degree, another big draw for me was the CHBE department’s outstanding faculty which I had already gotten to know and love. CHBE has many incredibly talented and caring professors and administrators who I enjoyed working with and studying under. One of my eventual master’s supervisors, Dr. Bhushan Gopaluni, was one of the first people to encourage me to consider grad school.

What has made your time at UBC memorable? 

The undergraduate CHBE experience comes with so many memorable moments. I vividly remember my first time in the CHBE lab in second-year, my first time seeing an oil refinery on a field trip in third-year, and meeting my capstone group in fourth-year for the first time. So much of CHBE is centered around group work and this leads to a strong and tight-knit community. I met many of my closest friends in CHBE. Even as we have all started our different careers and moved to different cities, we make an annual pilgrimage to my family's cabin in the interior of BC to reconnect with each other every summer. 
One thing which made my master’s memorable was regularly meeting with industry experts through a collaboration between Honeywell and UBC. Performing research in an academic bubble can lead to problems — sometimes academia’s solutions may not consider the messiness of the real world, or we may be developing clever solutions to the wrong problems. Gaining the perspectives of practicing engineers on my research helped improve the quality of my work and changed the way I viewed research.  

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

Two things. First, CHBE is a very collaborative program and I would not do it alone. A key to my success was having a group of friends to talk through problems with. Don’t have a group of friends to work with? No problem. CHBE will provide you ample opportunities to find your people, and in the evenings there will always be plenty of classmates working in the CHBE building on the same problem sets as you who would be happy to bounce ideas. 
Second, understand that a chemical engineering degree can open many doors, and not all of them will say “Chemical Engineering” on the outside. People in my class have gone on to work at engineering firms, but I also have classmates who found roles in big tech, management consulting, or went on to further their education in artificial intelligence or law. The most important skills developed in CHBE are your soft skills; how you approach open-ended problems, and how adaptable you are to learning new topics. These skills can be marketed for many different roles. 

What are your future plans to make a difference in our world? 

I’m not one to make plans too far in advance. As it stands, my plan to make a difference in the world comes in two parts. Part one: finish medical school. Part two: be the best doctor I can be for my patients. 

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

Healthcare can be slow to embrace new technologies. This is understandable given very complex systems are at play and if something goes wrong, people’s health may suffer. While machine learning has had a huge impact on some fields, there are surprisingly few established use cases for it in medicine. I'm looking for opportunities to bring the machine learning experience gained through my master’s research and co-op placements to help work on machine learning approaches to extend or streamline our healthcare services. 




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Student in a lab holding a mini Erlenmeyer flask.

Chemical and Biological Engineering

Chemical and biological engineers will be equipped to excel in a number of fast-growing and highly paid fields, including biotechnology, food, environmental services, bioenergy, forestry, biopharmaceuticals, health care and biomedical engineering.

Chemical and Biological Engineering

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