Monthly Archives: November 2010


Hello there!

I suppose introductions are in order.  My name is Kristy and I will be one of the contributors to iMech this year.  I’ve never written a blog, or done much writing that isn’t point form recently in fact, so you’ll have to bear with me as I try to get into the groove of full sentences.  🙂

UBC and I go way back.  I did my Undergrad here in the Mech department, graduated in 2009, and started my Masters this past September.  I never really thought I would do my Masters, so quickly after my undergrad anyway, but life is interesting that way and here I am and enjoying it! (See proof below).

A lot of different areas of mechanical engineering interest me, but I am most interested in medical device design which is the subject of my thesis project (of which I’m sure many more entries will follow!).

I look forward to writing about my experiences through this program!  Please feel free to contract me anytime with any questions or comments at, and I look forward to getting to e-know you.

UBC Mech Grad meets ASME

Last week, the City of Vancouver had the honour of welcoming the attendees of ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineer) IMECE (International Mechanical Engineering Congress & Exposition) at the Vancouver Convention Centre (see pictures below). From what I hear, it was the first time IMECE, one of the largest mech eng conferences in the world, was held outside of the United States, and I definitely don’t think anyone can blame anyone for their excellent choice of venue (I always wanted to see the rotating Earth in the Convention Centre up close). Now, the reason why I am writing about the conference today is because I got to attend the conference for free as a student volunteer. That’s right, $0 registration fee.

Photo of Vancouver Convention Centre by Wook Choi, attendee of IMECE 2010 and phD candidate from UCLA

Now, I love going to conferences. I think it’s more fun than just visiting another city/country/continent for a trip. I’ve been to a handful of conferences since my undergrad – leadership conferences, student tech conferences, etc., – and I even chose to go to Japan for my grad trip a bit more than a year ago, because ICRA (International Conference on Robotics and Automation) 2009 was held in Kobe, Japan at the time.

I think being financially supported to attend conferences is definitely one of the sunny sides of being in grad school. You get to fly out, train out, or bus out to somewhere (possibly new) to meet people from all over the place who shares the same interest as you. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never met these people before, or you’re nervous to death that the researcher (one of the persons you’ve only seen the online profile picture of) just came and sat in the room you’ll be giving your presentation in.

Just like teenagers who, by chance, run into his/her favourite movie star, grad students experience theses starstruck moments when they meet certain big figures in their research field. I certainly did when I went to ICRA 2009, and talked with the big figures in the field of roboethics, and went to ICRA 2010 and gave my workshop presentation in front of a researcher I had been admiring for over a year. During the first semester (and perhaps the first year) of my master’s I flipped through a lot of pdf’s (academic papers, of course) related to my research. It was inevitable – as is the case with any student researchers in any field of study – that I came across certain researchers’ names more often than others’. And for some reason, I started to consider them as Einstein or Newton – both of whom have passed away long ago, but left us with invaluable knowledge we now can’t live without, especially as engineers – and couldn’t imagine that these people could exist in the same room as you and talk to you in person, one on one …. for minutes… and even ask you questions that only you know the answer to…!! The thrill, I tell ya…

Anywho, long story short, I have fond memories of running into the big figures and being starstruck. With this and many other factors in mind, I love going to conferences.

Photo of Vancouver Convention Centre by Wook Choi, attendee of IMECE 2010 and phD candidate from UCLA

In preparation for the IMECE conference, UBC students were offered to volunteer at the conference and, in exchange for the volunteering work, allowed to attend the conference for the day for free. Myself and a handful of Mech grads volunteered for the conference. I volunteered on Wednesday and Thursday of last week, checking on and helping out presenters with their posters etc,. I got to meet a lot of people from all over the world from my volunteering duties. Most of them were researchers within micro and nano area, which are quite different from my field – robotics, human-robot interaction, and roboethics.  But it was great to have met them, and with the power of social media, will try my best to keep in touch with them. Who knows? I might end up presenting something in Atlanta, or LA, and may run into the people from Georgia Tech, UCLA, USC etc. again?

Another awesome thing about volunteering at the conference (in addition to free food, which I didn’t mention so far) was that Dr. Sheldon Green, the Head of our Department, was there as a ‘student’ volunteer on Thursday as well. I think ASME needed a lot of volunteers for this conference, and Dr. Green came out to volunteer with the students and promote UBC student volunteerism at the conference. He was actually given a name tag that said ‘STUDENT’ in all caps under his name.  He didn’t seem offended by the misprint at all, and joined us early in the morning to get volunteering instructions for the day. I think the students who woke up around 6am to get to the Vancouver Convention Centre by 7am, and Jennifer Pelletier (a.k.a, Jen), who was there before us and left the Centre after us everyday of the conference, were all enspirited by Dr. Green’s volunteerism (and also by his self-control over nanaimo bars at lunch – the self-control I definitely did not have).

Definitely looking forward to the next conference in my calendar… 🙂

The Glamorous Lives of UBC Mech Eng Grads

Hi there, reader!

Welcome to iMech – your one and only source into the glamorous lives of UBC Mechanical Engineering graduate students.

Is UBC grad life really that glamorous, you ask? Not in the sense of the word people normally use to describe the ‘bling bling’ lives of the characters in Gossip Girl, but in the same sense defines it:

glam·or·ous [glam-er-uhs] –adjective

1. full of glamour; charmingly or fascinatingly attractive, esp. in a mysterious or magical way.

2. full of excitement, adventure, and unusual activity: the glamorous job of a foreign correspondent.

Yup, it’s definitely a life filled with ‘excitement, adventure, and unusual activity’, and I am here to share my account of the glamorous grad life with you. Some of the excitement comes from obtaining the knowledge that there’s free food somewhere on campus – and you have the right to be pouty if other grad students forget to share details of such events. Adventures start from the first day of MECH 598 seminar, where you learn about the mandatory seminar presentation you must give to the faculty members (your supervisor included) and a handful of fellow students within a few months of your arrival on campus.

Much unusual activity in grad school seem to happen when grad students resist going home on a Friday afternoon due to something that must be accomplished that night – of course, because we have self-set deadlines that we can’t let ourselves ignore. For example, I witnessed my lab-mates build a fully functional door opening mechanism for the lab on a Friday night (for fun, of course). Walking all the way from one corner of the lab to open the door for a visitor became an annoying job for those sitting nearest to the door. Hence, we identified the need to eliminate this source of annoyance in our otherwise-awesome lab. The mechanism consisted of a hanger, a paper clip, and a nail, all of which were cleverly tied together by strings to the lever-like door handle. When I urged them to go home for the weekend, they kept insisting that they were almost done and that it was going to be epic… Once an engineer uses the word epic to describe the future of his/her current project, and anticipate the ‘epic’ moment to happen in some immediate future, there is no going home… Unusual? To the lay, I think so.

So this blog is all about reporting on the glamour of life as a Mechanical Engineering graduate student at the University of British Columbia – all the excitements, adventures, and what others may view as unusual activities.

As the first post of iMech, I wanted to give you a sneak peak of what I intend to write. For those of you who are considering grad school (at UBC or other), I hope this blog will give you a sense of what you can expect from your near-future grad student career. For those of you who are already here, pursuing your Master’s or PhD, I hope this blog will inspire you to share your experiences (i.e., feel free to become a contributor to this blog) or find some comfort in knowing that other students are living as crazy/exciting/hectic/passionate/(fill your favourite adjective here) life as you are. This blog is as empty as any new blog can be right now. I feel like I can hear my keyboard echoing “hello?! Is anyone there?” every time I type. But as more people start reading it, I hope to be able to take your questions (from prospective students?) and comments (from people in general – young, old, faculty, staff, student), and turn it into valuable discussions about things we do/should care about.

In subsequent posts, I will try to add more photos of things/people around here and also do a proper introduction of myself (yours truly).