Monthly Archives: February 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy

As I was kind of expecting, I seem to have slightly over-estimated the amount of work I can handle this term! Grad school is complicated – I hear so many people saying how amazingly chill it is—they sleep until 12, get to school around 1 or 2, and stay until around 5. Then there are the me’s who run around like chicken’s with our heads cut off who get to school around 7:30 and stay until 5, at which point we go home and do work there.

So why don’t the me’s get to sleep until 12? Well dear readers, let me tell you so you can know what you’re getting yourself into when you say “yes” to the fun extra things you can do in grad school.

1. Courses. Grad courses are a lot more work than undergrad courses. A lot of people told me that before I started, but I only semi-believed them. Let me give you an actual idea of how much work is involved in a particularly heavy grad course, so you’ll hopefully get an idea of how many you want to take in a term. The most the majority of grad students take is 3. I’m in 4. Oops.

Credits: 3


Lectures: 3 hours per week

Tutorials: 1 hour per week

Journal club: 1 hour per week + 45 minutes of transportation to/from (this involves meeting with other graduate students working/taking classes in the field and taking turns presenting and discussing a relevant journal article each week)

Outside Class

7 assignments

~ 5 focus notes – summary notes of relevant journal articles

A 2000-word literature review

A group experimental project and report



On the plus side, the course is really interesting and the prof is great!

2. TA-ing. TA-ing is another complicated grad school thing. It is half really rewarding, fun, and really makes you know the course material inside and out, and half disheartening, frustrating, and takes way more time than you will expect.

The fun part is getting to know the students and feeling like you actually are helping them, and in some cases, maybe even getting them excited about the course (well, excited may be a strong word…). The disheartening part is when you think everyone gets what you’re talking about, and you see they totally didn’t on the problem set or quiz.

The frustration comes in when you look out onto a sea of 120 blank faces, knowing the class has no idea what you’re talking about and you can’t think of another way to explain it, or students making a big deal of you taking off a mark for something, when you know you could have taken off many more in other places but are trying to be somewhat lenient.

As a first TA position, I really recommend doing a lab since they usually only last 2 weeks and you only have to prepare one lecture that you give over and over again. Tutorials are nice since you get to know the students a lot better, but they are a lot more work.

3. Research. This one is also a complicated grad school thing since all supervisors are different. Some will definitely want you to start making some progress on your research while you’re taking classes, and others won’t expect you to start until after you’re done (the first 8 months of the program). For me, the amount of work my research has been is roughly the same to the amount of work an undergrad project course is. It’s something that is always there and I kind of put off/slowly plug away at until I have a deadline or meeting coming up, at which point it’s all you do for a day or two.

Grad school for the most part really is pretty fun, and I am enjoying what I’m doing (ugh, with the exception of one course which each lecture is an hour and a half of my life I will never get back), its just a lot of work.

Better late than never…

Hello everyone! My name is Anupam Biswas and I am a new graduate student in Mechanical Engineering Department. I graduated from the Department of Aerospace Engineering in the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India. And now, here I am in Vancouver, Canada, for the first time outside my country, pursuing my master’s in Mech, UBC. I arrived here on September 2nd, 2010 after completing 35 hours of flight but I soon realized that I wouldn’t really hesitate to make 500 hours of continuous journey to be in British Columbia, as it is, no doubt, one of the ‘The Best Places on Earth’.

As I am from India, I have always been in multicultural milieu, wherever I have been there. And now here in UBC, it is a delight to be amidst people from different parts of the world. Living here, kind of feels like being a global citizen. In my opinion, to be a part of the student community here in UBC is, besides academics, a great opportunity to learn about other cultures and communities of the world.

I was being told to blog from a really long time, not because I am a great blogger or a page 3 columnist or something :), but simply because I had consented to the idea of blogging and was constantly procrastinating. My apologies for that. Better late than never. I will certainly not justify myself for this delay but I will surely talk about MECH 502 :). Well that is a fluid mechanics course taught by Dr. Ian Frigaard. If one is interested in fluid mechanics, wants to expand his or her knowledge in the area and doesn’t really mind giving the brain a hard time for around four months, this course is a ‘must take’ :). And not taking it is a mistake :), though one has to go through excruciating hours while solving the assignments, for which the deadlines are usually a month after the question sheets are provided. I am sure those who have taken this course already and are reading this blog, are nodding inside their heads. That is why it was so difficult to begin anything else, because all the time, that is, even hours after the lecture, there were always certain words revolving around the centre of the mind, like Reynolds number, Stokes number, Hele-Shaw, squeeze-damper, thin films and many more. But believe me, at the end you are always content of having learnt so much in the course.

Well life in UBC is so full of things. It is difficult to keep oneself without anything to do. I believe it is like ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to learn so much, and in a myriad of domains. As far as graduate student life is concerned, I think these two or three years of life, keeps one involved and occupied in lab-work for long hours besides gathering extensive amounts of scientific knowhow. I’m sure the idea of getting a sleeping bag for ones’ office is not really a novel one :). I have no doubt that life in UBC for everyone is a grand and unforgettable experience.

To learn, to explore, to leave a mark behind                                                                  Here we are in UBC, a place of mind

Thank you! You can reach me at Frankly I don’t like the ‘interchange’ in Mech emails, so I don’t use it.

How to Beat Procrastination (Part 1 – Special Occasions… for singles)

Yup, what you see above is a glass of wine and Ferrero Rocher chocolate sitting on my desk. Two ingredients that’s keeping me from procrastinating. You may not agree with my methods of beating down procrastination, but I thought it could shed some light to how I get rid of my urges to play online games and watch tv. You will see the story behind the two ingredients and my day today as you read on.

So why wine and chocolate today? Well…. It’s Chinese New Year’s day today, and despite the fun and special nature of the day, I didn’t get to celebrate.

Today was just another Thursday. I tried my best to get my stuff done in the morning and went to a grammar class at the UBC Writing Centre in the evening (yup, I get to to be picky about grammar and give the instructor a real hard time about subject/verb agreements and punctuations for 2.5 hours every week). I had my healthy dinner for the day, had my fill of entertainments during dinner, and even had a chat with my sister over the phone. But that was pretty much it.

When I got back from the class, I felt that I was lacking something, and I felt the urge to spice up the night a little bit and up the mood of the day.

I mean, to be honest, celebrating the New Year’s all by myself didn’t seem to be the happiest idea – although I never really cared for it the past few years. Nonetheless, I still have a journal paper I have to edit and push out the door, so it’s not like I wanted someone to be around chatting away with me when I’m supposed to get my work done. So came the amazing idea of wine and chocolate – i.e., Celebrating while working.

Don’t worry, this is really not a bad idea for those who are perfectly happy being a solo, yet career-driven. I, personally, am learning a bit about wine these days and starting to enjoy a glass for celebratory purposes. I have also recently discovered that a glass of wine really gets me focused for some reason. I had been procrastinating on one of the paper-writing things I had to do for days. And one evening, I sat down, had a glass, and was ready to go. I finished the work within three hours. Perhaps not the healthiest habit to get used to I suppose. But it totally works for me.

Now I am listening to the latest release of Vancouver’s local band, Dashing (free to download by the way), sipping on wine, having the delicious hazelnut-filled chocolate with my screen filled with LaTex script of my journal paper. And guess what? It’s almost done. 😀

Alright, for the next post, I will try to come up with a better procrastination-beating technique than my newly emerging bad habits. Stay tuned….!