Monthly Archives: August 2011

Brown Guys are Hot

“Brown guys are hot” is indeed the title of this post.

Random? Yes.

Does it actually talk about brown guys? No.

Today, I randomly talked about my blogging career with a good friend of mine, Abhijeet Sarkar. A writer and engineer himself, he decided to take on the quest of being a guest blogger for iMech blog — he likes to talk about his opinions of most random things thinking people actually care, jkjk. Anyway, here is what a non-academician has to say to newly starting graduate students.

If you like this post, and kind of dig his writing style, check out his latest short story published on Amazon.


Why are you here?

I do enjoy writing for newbies. Why? Well because my few years of experience makes me feel that I am not only qualified, but also obliged to do so. But I would take that with a grain of salt were I you.
The other reason why I write this article is because, having firmly decided NOT to pursue graduate studies, it gives me an outsider’s look in on what grad life is like. Think back to high school, when the University reps came to visit you and preach on and on about how amazing their school was. Trying to convince YOU to apply. Trying to tell you that your university years will be the BEST years of your life.

And then you got to Engineering undergrad, and had something else entirely. Countless late nights spent in the lab. Studying endlessly for quizzes and assignments that were maybe 10% of your grade. Dealing with the unique mosaic of social abilities that were picked from all corners of the country and placed in one room, ranging from suave and savvy, to just downright idiotic. And once the dust and sand had settled and you were sitting in the plastic chairs of the Physical Activities Complex, your parents cheering you on from the bleachers while some dignitary you never met gives a speech, you stop and wonder – where did my University experience go?
So I ask you again – why are you here? Is it for UBC’s state of the art labs? Is it for scenery and the lifestyle of Vancouver? Is it because you’re here for a second chance?

The smart answer would be all three, but the foolish answer would be any that left out the last. I know a few grad students. And by few I mean it to be an understatement. I know grad students who came to Vancouver for a fresh start and with an open mind, completely turning their lives around. Grad students who found themselves, their TRUE selves, here in Vancouver. I’ve met grad students who pushed their boundaries, who reached beyond their limits, who had done more in their first summer here than in five years of engineering undergrad. It seems that they wanted so much to escape their engineering undergrad experience, that they did anything and everything that surprised not only those around them, but suprised themselves as well. And then I’ve met students who did the opposite.

There are grad students who go into research because they are afraid of the real world. Who don’t know what to do once school is over. There are students who have no passion, no drive, and no energy when pursuing their research. Grad students who want nothing more than to have a do-over of their undergrad which, quite frankly, epic sucked. And then there are those who truly LOVE their work. Who wake up thinking about it. Who eat breakfast, lunch and dinner running data analyses over in their mind, and who fall asleep with their MATLAB script running in the background.

But in the end it doesn’t matter which of these categories you fall under. There is something my father told me which has stuck with me a long time. He said, “Time is the great equalizer.” Coming from someone who grew up with only one shirt and no money, who went on to graduate from IIT engineering and IIM MBA (schools more elite and difficult to gain entrance into than MIT or Harvard), that is something that makes you sit up in your chair and take heed. At the end of the day it’s not going to matter which school you went to. It’s not going to matter what your grades were. School is not the real world. There are things waiting for you out there that you are just not going to learn being in a lab, running metrics and analyses. The wonderful thing about school is that it lets you come up with a lot of theories on life. The bad thing is that a lot of those theories aren’t going to stick when you get out into the real world.

It’s a staging ground for what’s coming. It’s the perfect sandbox for doing something you have never done before. If you want the university experience you didn’t get in your previous school, it’s entirely under your control. The world works by the laws of attraction. And you cannot spell Attraction without “action”. If you want something you have never had, you must do something you have never done. I can go on throwing reused platitudes at you, but I think you get the point.
When it comes down to it, you made your choice to be at UBC for many reasons. You made your decision to do grad studies for many reasons. Some of which had to do with the University, some of which had to do with the lab, and some had to do with the city. Whatever your reason, you can’t help but have a slight giddiness in the pit of your stomach. A little nervous spark as you embark on a new place.

Capture that feeling. Hold on to it. And fuel it. You’re going to need it if you want to get through the next two years (give or take a few months) with a pHD potentially on the horizon. Because that slight bit of nervousness, that little bit of apprehension means you’re doing something right. There is a skill to be learned from this, a small nugget of knowledge buried here, which I hope you picked up on. And if you didn’t then I’ll just say it outright for you.

The ability to take risk is one skill they will NEVER teach you in school. It’s a lesson for the real world, learned in the real world. You’ve already taken a risk by coming this far, don’t be foolish and stop. You’re clearly here as a decision for your future. But I think that you know from that Bachelor’s on your wall (or in your drawer like mine is) that the degree isn’t enough. It’s what you do, with what you have, that determines where you go, and who you will become.

Abhijeet Sarkar(guest blogger), Picture by Branden Pritchard

So start small. Go to socials. Take classes you normally would not. Find enjoyment in things you’ve never tried. Push yourself to do something outside your comfort zone. Learn to take bigger and bigger risks. Learn to stand out in a crowd. And do it now before you settle into a routine. At the end we only come as far as we do by learning to take risks. Not stupid risks. Calculated risks. Measured risks. Facing failure head-on unflinchingly. And, more importantly, getting back up after we do fail. Otherwise time really will level the playing field, and in thirty years no one’s going to know or care where your degree came from if you never learn to leverage it against a wager in life.

To have never risked is to have never lived.


Summer ending so soon!


Summer seems to be coming to a very fast close; I can’t believe September is almost here already!  It took until nearly the beginning of August for our summer weather to start so that has not helped the feeling of it going by so fast!

After being postponed a few times due to weather/schedules we managed to have a great MEGA day in the sun at Kits beach on August 6th. Here are a few pictures of the day!

Erik, our MEGA VP, grilling up some amazing burgers on the beach!

MEGA-ers having fun in the sun

Erik has also been busy organizing lots of hikes all over the lower mainland so there have been lots of opportunities for Mech grad students to get out and see some of the scenery BC has to offer.

If you are a new graduate student joining Mech at UBC this September, be sure to join the MEGA facebook group ( and watch for our new grad hike coming up! We will also be sending out an email to all Mech grad students with more info soon.

Kristy  <3

Creating Connections… at UBC

Dear incoming and existing Mech Eng graduate students,

On behalf of myself and I (which doesn’t speak for much), I would like to send you an early (for the incoming students) and late (for those current students whom I haven’t met yet) yet warm welcome to UBC Engineering. It’s mid August already, and I thought I would’ve graduated by now, but I am happy to let you know that I will be around for a couple of more months to blog here, and hopefully get to know you a little bit.

Today, I would like to talk about a serious issue many students have that may be more relevant to you than you currently may think. The issue is this – how do you get to know people, to a comfortable enough level, such that you can call them up and hang out with them on a regular basis? In other words, how do you ‘get a life’ outside your lab, when the first set of people you’ll get to know and learn to rely on are the people at your lab? It may be it’s your first time in Canada/Vancouver/UBC/grad studies, and you know there are tons of things the city/campus/country has to offer that are waiting for you to explore. To put it a little more bluntly, where do you find people outside the lab???

Coming alone to UBC? Don't worry, we'll get you settled down no problem. You just need to come out a little, and be willing to get to know new people.

Your labmates, who may have been around for months/years, will probably know enough to guide you through your curious appetite to poke around different parts of your new habitat. They will probably be a good resource for you to ask questions such as “Where can I get a fob access to the lab?”, “What’s a fob?” (that was one of my questions when I first came here. lol), “Where do you usually go for groceries?”, and “Am I supposed to be in the lab 9-5 everyday?”.

But the feedback I’ve been getting from people regarding their ‘settling down at UBC’ experience as a Mech Eng grad student is that there are benefits to meeting people who are going through the same things (i.e,.  the same ‘settling down at UBC phase’), who are not necessarily your labmates, and it’s also hard to get to know people outside the lab whom you can hang out with – so that you’re not always hanging out at the lab.

I happened to be lucky to have come to UBC with a whole bunch of my classmates from undergrad that I didn’t have much problem of looking for people to hang out with. But that’s not always the case for most people.

If you are anything like me — who is totally not athletic, never has the time to cleanse myself of my lab-loving workaholic tendencies, enjoys hobbies that don’t necessary require interactions with other people (i.e., watercolour painting, playing the flute, and blogging) — then you really don’t get to meet a lot of new people. I even joked with some of the MEGAers at last week’s MEGA meeting that if I were to use Facebook’s CheckIn functions a lot more, and checked in at the places I go to everyday, then my Facebook wall would look something like this:

AJung has checked in at the Lab.

AJung has checked in at Home.

AJung as checked in at the Lab.

AJung has checked in at Starbucks (2 min. walk from the lab).

AJung has checked in at the Lab.

AJung has checked in at Home.

AJung has checked in at the Lab.

Funny, yet sadly true.

So where do you meet new people who will eventually become your social circle. And if you have a social circle already, how do you diversify your social circles?

MEGA is going to do its best to bring new and current students together during the orientation week, but I think people would definitely benefit from taking advantage of some of the social things during the first couple of months – while things are not so busy, you’re loaded with coursework rather than research work, and everything is new and exciting.

First, check out MEGA – Mech Eng Grad Association. You’ve come to UBC to become the world’s most sought-out researcher in your field, and you don’t have time to get involved in student associations. No worries, I get it. But as grad students, there comes a time when you’d like to talk about your supervisors without the presence of them (Mike & Elizabeth: don’t worry, I don’t say anything bad about you guys.. eh hem..!), and need someone to echo your heartache over Mech 598 seminars, get the latest news about deals on Groupon that you don’t want to miss out – i.e.,  ‘get a life’ the grad student way. MEGA runs weekly coffee socials, so that you don’t have to get involved in the administrative stuff behind the association, but you come out to chill, eat cookies, and drink coffee/tea/whatever is there for free. It’s definitely a good way to meet people within the department I think. MEGA has its own Facebook page, website, a Google Calendar, and a mailing list, so that you can stay informed of our next beach party, hike, free pizza/movie nights, and more.

Second, go do the orientation stuff. I know I know… some of the things may sound boring or ‘not your thing’ for you. But just do it. Just for the orientation week. Because otherwise, you may never get the chance to do the potentially awkward stuff with strangers, which means the strangers will remain strangers to you – and not your buds. GSS usually plans some epic events, such as the boat cruise (which I thoroughly enjoyed).

A pic from Creating Connections 2007. I am in this picture somewhere, and so are a number of my current friends who were mere strangers back then.

Third, if you are a lady engineer, like myself, consider going to the Creating Connections 2.0 event. They ran it a couple of years ago when I first came to UBC, and it was an epic event to meet people, not only grad students, but also industry people and professors who are females and share the same pains and pleasures of being a lady engineer in Canada. The best thing about it is that it’s filled with opportunities to meet other lady engineers at other departments, like ECE, Civil, etc., while getting inspired by fabulous guest speakers who gives you these straight-from-experience words of wisdom.

Lastly, share your passion with others. There are good deals throughout the city that are tailored to suit your tastes and hobbies. For example, the Access Pass at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra is one thing that I think all students should have, because they allow you to go to these fabulous concerts at the Orpheum for only $10, which is uber cheap – for those of you who dig classical music like I do. And see? You wouldn’t have known about the deal if I hadn’t told you about it. So please feel free to share your passion – whether it be free leftover food at a seminar you attended, or a cheap kayaking/ski trip you came across – with other students through MEGA (you can send emails to and someone — i.e., me, at the moment — will help you forward it to the entire Mech grad students) or leave a note on Facebook and be open to fellow students joining in on sharing your passion.

Along that line of thought, Josh Groban is coming to town on Aug. 30th and there’s student discount at ticketmaster. Woot woot!

Anywho, I hope all the new students have a safe trip to Vancouver, and don’t go through too much trouble finding housing. If you have any questions/comments, feel free to post them here. I’d love to hear from you! 😀