UBC’s Engineering Transfer Program Was A Pathway To Success

"If you are willing to work hard and you manage your time well, you can succeed in engineering."

Mikah L’Ecuyer Morison

Mikah L’Ecuyer Morison

Why did you want to study engineering?

I’ve always been aware of environmental issues, and I saw engineering as a way to work for positive change and sustainability. I also enjoyed studying chemistry and biology in high school, and I liked the hands-on nature of engineering compared to other majors that are more research based.

Chemical and Biological Engineering

You did the Engineering Transfer Program at Selkirk College for first year and then transferred to UBC. Tell us about your experience.

I loved the Engineering Transfer Program. Our cohort at Selkirk was very small – there were about 12 of us – so you made close connections with your classmates and professors. My first year also took place during Covid, when students at most universities had to do everything online. Because we were such a small cohort we were able to meet in person for labs, which gave me some great lab experience. The tuition was cheaper too!

Engineering Transfer Program

How did you choose Chemical and Biological Engineering?

You have so many job options open to you as a chemical and biological engineer. That appealed to me. 

What are some highlights of your studies so far?

One great thing about UBC Engineering is that there is a lot of group work, not just in your labs but in your general courses as well. It makes it easy to meet people and it’s a lot of fun to work in teams trying to solve complex problems. 

Some projects I’ve particularly enjoyed include doing a life-cycle analysis on greenhouse gas emissions saved from the SkyTrain extension along Broadway Avenue in Vancouver compared to the current system of high-speed buses, and another on developing a process to extract collagen from mammalian cells. These and other projects often require you to integrate and apply what you’ve been learning in all your other courses. I also like that these projects often involve writing proposals and memos – it’s a fun way to learn. 

Tell us about your co-op experience.

I think co-op is essential if you are planning to work as an engineer after you graduate, rather than going on to do a master’s degree or PhD. 

Most employers are more interested in your work experience than your grades, and co-op is an easy way to get that experience. For my first co-op, I worked for eight months at a research lab at UBC doing a scale-up of microbial fuel cells. It was an amazing learning opportunity that helped me realize the importance of what we’re learning in our courses. My supervisor, who had also been a TA for some of my courses, pushed me to gain new skills, like doing 3D modelling using Fusion and learning Python for data analysis. 

I’m a few months into my second co-op term at Nano One Materials, a company that produces cathode powders used in lithium-ion batteries. I’m part of the lab team doing small-scale experiments on material characterizations. 

The engineering program is a lot of work and your day rarely ends at five o’clock. But in co-op, your have regular hours and your time is your own at night and on weekends. And of course, you’re getting paid to learn skills that you would want to learn anyways.

Co-op  Nano One Materials 

Have you been involved in extracurricular activities?

In second year, I joined Brewing Internet of Things (BIoT), which is a student design team that focuses on automating and optimizing the home brewing or craft brewing process by using low-cost monitoring sensors and developing new techniques. I’m now the lead of the brewing sub-team where I manage eight crew members. We’ve also worked on some sustainability-related projects, like using algae as part of a carbon capture system and another to make prebiotic beer from brewers’ spent grain rather than throwing it out, as is standard industry practice. 

Design teams Brewing Internet of Things (BIoT)

Tell us about your work with Innovation OnBoard.

I feel like if you’re an engineer, there are two paths ahead of you. One is working for a salary and the other is launching a startup. Innovation OnBoard was started in 2017 to help students develop their entrepreneurial abilities. It wound down for a few years because of Covid, and I’ve been part of the efforts to restart it. Students form teams and work with mentors in their field through about eight seminars each year. We then host a Dragon’s Den-style competition where each team delivers their pitch, with the winning team getting $5000 and second and third places receiving $3000 and $2000 to use towards their ventures. There are lots of other benefits provide by partners and sponsors other than cash prizes as well. 

Innovation OnBoard

Any advice for high school students wondering about engineering?

I think there’s a misconception that you have to be really smart to be an engineer. I don’t believe that’s true. 

If you are willing to work hard and you manage your time well, you can succeed in engineering. 

Also – don’t be shy! UBC Engineering is an amazing community and there are lots of events going on where you can meet incredible people. 

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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