Tag Archives: research

Summer on campus

So, you’re spending your summer on campus. What goes on here? What can I do to keep myself busy? Well, I might have a few ideas.

Work Learn

If you don’t know what a Work Learn position is, they’re part-time paid positions offered through UBC in both the winter and summer terms. For the summer, Work Learn positions are typically posted around March. Depending on the position, they can be pretty competitive, so it’s best to apply early! You can work a maximum of 20 hours/week in a Work Learn during the summer, which puts you to a total of 300 hours. There are many different positions available, from research, to office and library work, to working with MECH Student Services (yay!).

Undergraduate Research

If you’re interested in a specific field, or think you might be interested in research, then why not reach out to a prof and try to snag a research position? Undergraduate research positions can come in many different forms. There are full-time, paid positions that are sometimes posted through co-op, but full-time opportunities can also be accessed through grants like NSERC. In my case, I’m doing some part-time unpaid casual work for a prof, which will hopefully lead to a publication. If you’re interested, I recommend reaching out to a professor whose research focus appeals to you, and simply ask if they are interested in taking on a student over the summer. You can also take a look here, for more undergrad research opportunities.

Personal Projects

Who doesn’t love making things? During the winter terms, students are typically much too busy to take on extra projects. Over the summer though, you have lots of time to explore your passions and build your resume. There is a wonderful previous post that includes some ideas for personal projects. If you already have some past projects, I can also recommend creating a projects portfolio. Building and coding your own website showcasing past work you’ve done is a useful thing to have to send to employers, and can also be put on your resume!

Design Teams

Joining a design team for the summer only might be difficult (although it doesn’t hurt to ask), however, if you’re already on a design team, there are often opportunities to get more involved. Most design team competitions happen over the summer, which means they are usually even more busy than during the school year. I know people who have spent full days in the shop with their team, and you typically gain a lot of hands-on experience. Often, you also get a chance to go to the competition, which can involve fun road trips and hotel stays.


Have you spent the summer in Vancouver before? If not, this is your chance! Since the winter term is unfortunately dominated by cold and rain, the summer term is really the best chance to get outside and see what Vancouver has to offer. Go hiking on the north shore, climb and mountain bike in Squamish, or simply enjoy the UBC campus. With the roses coming out and flowers in bloom, the summer is a beautiful time to take relaxing walks and explore the campus and city itself.

Tulip fields and mountains in the background View of mountains

This list just contains a few things that come to mind when thinking about the summer, but there really are endless possibilities! Even if you’re on co-op or not staying in Vancouver over the summer, some of my suggestions are still applicable, and I strongly encourage you to make the most out of your free time. That being said, I think it is also important to recognize that the summer is your primary time to relax and destress from the previous term. For some people, doing projects and research are their way to relax and destress. Others may benefit more from simply taking a break, and that’s okay too! In a demanding program like engineering, we need to know how to take a step back and prepare for the next year, in order to avoid burnout. While some people (including me) want to constantly be productive and push themselves, knowing what works best for you and following that is important.

Finding a Summer Co-op Job

I’d forgotten how stressful looking for a Co-op summer placement can be. It’s my second time looking for a placement so I thought it would be easier, but it’s turning out to be just as difficult as the first time.  That being said, I’ve learned some things along the way.

Job applications take time and effort, so it’s easy to procrastinate at the beginning of the term.  Finding a job for the summer can feel like a midterm that’s a couple of months away.  You know you should be working on it, but there’s quite a bit of time right?  If you’re like me, a month can feel like an eternity away when you’re just trying to survive the week.

If you start early enough, there’s usually not much competition.  There will be quite a few job posting with relative low number of applicants.  As the term goes on, the number of job postings will start to go down and the number of applicants per post will start to shoot up.  50, 60, sometimes even 100 applicants per post will start to become the norm.  As the term goes on, school also ramps up with midterms and projects, making life a lot harder.

My advice is to not try to cram job applications.  It’s not impossible to find a job later in the term; it’s just harder and more stressful, so start early.

That’s my first point.

I was in this situation last year.  It was getting late in the term, and I still hadn’t found anything. So, I widened my search.  I’m personally interested in clean energy and it just so happens that UBC has a Clean Energy Research Centre.  I contacted the professor in the research area I was interested in, and managed to secure a 4-month position which was later extended to 8-months.

This brings me to my point second point: research opportunities on campus.

As I’m sure you know, a large part of what professors do is research.  If you’re interested in the research area they’re in, talk to them.  They are a really great source of knowledge, and if they don’t have a job for you, they might be able to push you in the right direction.

Not only will research give you valuable experience, but you can see if research is something you would like to purse in the future.  I personally had a blast in my position.   I got to work with hydrogen fuel cells, which was a technology I had always been interested in. I even managed to attend a fuel cell conference here in Vancouver which had presentations from industry leaders from all over the world.   Because of that, I now have a comprehensive layout of the fuel cell industry and know what companies are based here in Vancouver.  This will be extremely useful if I decide to pursue a career in the industry.  All of this happened because I talked to a professor.

So be proactive; you would be surprised about what you can find at UBC.

Good luck,