So, I think UBC Mech is becoming arguably more jazzy department of all in terms of grad student social life. I am saying that partially because I just updated the MEGA (Mechanical Engineering Graduate Association) today.
Since its (re)birth about 1.5 years ago, MEGA has established quite a presence within the department.
Let’s take a look at some of them, in case you are not at UBC yet, or you filtered out the weekly emails MEGA sends out via the student mailing list.
First, we try to make sure hard working grad students don’t miss a meal via our MEGA Meal program, where we have frozen dinners at different labs and at the Mech office fridge for $2~3 per meal. Affordable? No kidding.
Second, we run lots and lots of social events than ever before. I mean, right now MEGA is running a weekly digest of upcoming events for the summer, because we are afraid you will feel ‘spammed’ by the number of upcoming events we have planned (and still being planned) for the summer. We’ve been holding Pizza + Movie Nights (the upcoming movie night is taking place this Thursday, May 26th, 6pm, where we’ll watch The Simpsons Movie), thanks to our treasurer, Navid Shirzad. MEGA Hiking Series for the summer is also being run via Eric Pospisil, the first hike of which will take place this Saturday (May 27th, 9am – 5pm, Norvan Falls). To be honest, although I’ve been in Vancouver for over a year, I don’t really know the area that well. So I’ve only gone hiking twice during my entire MASc career, although there are (apparently) numerous places to check out. I still need to do the Grouse Grinds by the way… I hope Eric will put the Grouse mountain on his hiking series’ list-of-places-to-go-hiking.
Third, people meet weekly to chill, with no pressure. With the brilliant idea brought forth by one of the MEGA executives (I forget who, but I think it’s one of Ambrose Chan, Kevin Ou, or Thomas Huryn), we have been holding a Coffee Social once every week where people can show up to enjoy free coffee and cookies/timbits. Turns out, it’s a great way to meet new people outside of your research area/lab, and to get to know each other. We occasionally get into discussions about MECH 598 seminar course (the course we all have to take) and PhD qualifying exams, complain and laugh, eat and drink the brown liquid of life. I’m really appreciative of that, because it forces me to get out of my ‘workaholic’ tendencies and look at people’s faces in between starting at computer monitors and talking to voice-command-disabled robots.
Some of you prospective students may wonder, ‘Socialising? I’m not really big on that…’ or ‘Why would I want to waste my time socialising with other students? I’d rather do research.’ But trust me. Most grad students I’ve met (within and outside of UBC Mech) have displayed a plenty amount of loneliness regardless of their relationship status. Many factors contribute to grad student loneliness issue, but I think my previous uber-long post sheds light to that point a little bit.
I must admit, being a MEGA executive member (I’m the public relations director, i.e., I’m the designated spam person) takes a bit of time out of my usual work day. On Wednesdays, I usually don’t get much research done because I have a lab meeting from 11:00am-12:30pm, followed by an hour of MEGA executive meeting from 1pm-2pm, which is then followed by the weekly coffee social at 2pm-3pm. So if I wake up late on Wednesdays, I’m pretty much running around meetings and other stuff until 3pm.
But I don’t really mind it so far, because the MEGA council is quite small, and almost lacks bureaucracy in its decision making process. Ambrose is an open-dialogue type president, who asks more questions to the members than makes statements so that everyone’s opinions are heard.
Eric is the vice president with a meticulous mind, who is almost incapable of forgetting to do stuff he promised to do, and always asks the “what if..?” questions. Matthew Pan is a super organised and down-to-earth secretary who often quite fittingly says “Let’s Do It!” before he excitedly writes down presented ideas onto the MEGA meeting minutes.
Navid is your boy-next-door type treasurer who is usually the first to volunteer to help out and to organise, so that the team’s gears are well oiled.
And then… there’s me. I think I’m the most alpha person in the group, although the only female. I don’t really do much other than send out announcements, make weekly digest emails, and (… surprise, surprise!…) socialise with staff members and other grad students.
But starting today, you may see more of me in action (maybe), because MEGA now has a facebook page!
It’s actually pretty cool that our group is expanding our presence in Web 2.0 world, because I think it really presents our sense of connectedness as a group to the rest of the world. I mean, one of the key reasons why I decided to do my phD here at UBC as well is because of the sense of community that is playing a key part to my happiness as a graduate student in the lonely quest to find the next new knowledge for the world. I must admit, I’m a bit of a Web 2.0 person, so I am probably a bit more overjoyed about this than others. I write for two blogs (www.RoboethicsDB.com, and this one), I use twitter on a regular basis, run the Roboethics facebook group with Dr. Veruggio in Italy, am on Academia.edu, host many publicly accessible research references on Mendeley, and have a LinkedIn and about.me profiles. A bit too much? Maybe… I’m just trying to make roboethics and human-robot interaction information more accessible to people though.
Anyway, I think the facebook group is showing success already. Matt opened up the MEGA Facebook group about 4 hours ago with about 10 people added to the group. Now, after 4 hours, we already have 24 people in the group. So subscribe yourself to it, post on the wall, answer Navid’s “Suggest the next movie for the upcoming Movie Night!” polls, and edit the group document I made on “Useful links for UBC Mech Grads” (“Bladerunner” is winning against “Jurassic Park” for the next movie night btw, woot woot!).
I think it could be super useful for even new/prospective grad students to join and ask questions on facebook. I mean, writing a paragraph long email to a professor, or his/her graduate student can take hours to polish, but asking a one liner question on facebook is a bit less of a pressure that way. I just hope the pressure will be off of MECH 598 this way as well, but that may be asking for a bit too much…?! I should write up a blog post on the seminar course sometime. But with the abovementioned awesomeness with MEGA in mind, I am kind of glad that MEGA gets a very positive support from the department. We have been borrowing the department’s fridge, stock up MEGA meals in the Mech office fridge, invade the Faculty lounge into a Faculty + Grad lounge etc., but overall we could do it because of the department support (this is where you say “Awww~”).
Anywho, I am excited to be on facebook getting feeds from the MEGA facebook group.
Are you excited? See you online! 😀