Grad school applications are looming over my head and I am in an uncomfortable position. I am just beginning to realise that this safe and secure world of “School”, of which I have been a part for 16 years, is drawing to a close. It is the end of an era and, to be honest, it terrifies me.
Four years ago I was an above-average high school student headed for the health sciences with big dreams of getting into Pharmacy. I began at UofT in Arts & Science and, after my first year, was accepted into both Pharmacy and Chemical Engineering. It was a big decision at the time and, looking back, I can hardly believe that I managed to make a decision at all. Four years down the road I find myself thinking “I could be graduating from Pharmacy in June”. I never walk past the Faculty of Pharmacy without wondering how cool it would be to study in that big white bubble-lounge thing they have suspended in the middle of their building.
And so, I ask myself a question that I have never asked before:
Why am I in Engineering?!
And it has nothing to do with ECE, believe me! Engineering opens up more opportunities than any other profession. The most marketable skill of an engineer lies in our problem-solving abilities. While a surgeon or a mathematician (or a pharmacist!) may know how to solve very specific problems, their problem-solving skills are based on knowing everything there is to know about a very small section of science. Engineers, on the other hand, are trained to think laterally and solve problems while knowing nothing about anything, to begin with. But we get there, and we know how to get a good answer. And it is those problem-solving skills that give engineers so much potential in today’s world.
Engineering Technology is Necessary
I have heard a lot of debates about which profession is more useful in today’s society: Engineers vs. Doctors vs. Economists vs. whatever-other-profession-you-can-name… The diplomatic answer is that they are each useful in their own way and this is true, up to a point. But let me be un-diplomatic for a moment. My answer to that question is a resounding “Engineers!” and my reasoning is simple.
Without all the engineering technology that has developed in healthcare over the past century, doctors would not be able to save the number of lives they do. The reason the average lifespan is getting longer is not because we have smarter doctors now than before; it is because they have better technology (developed by engineers) with which to work. Without advances in engineering and technology, there would be no business, no economy. Think about the changes to the global economy after the Industrial Revolution. Our society is built on engineering technology; it is the glue that holds everything together. Without it, we would be in a sticky situation.
Engineering appears to be one of the most audaciously optimistic fields of study out there. This audacity is derived from a unique application of creativity—engineering is a strange combination of understanding the laws of physics and simultaneously attempting to defy them. Engineers developed the technology that landed us on the moon, that split the atom, and that enables the investigation of regenerative medicine. Engineering is the one field where I can apply my stubborn creative streak to rational, logical thought processes and come up with ideas that no-one considers ridiculous. Engineers ask “How can I get this to work?” instead of bringing up reasons why it won’t. It is a highly optimistic, “fix-the-world” kind of profession.
I look back on the last four years of my life and think about how they could have been different. I could still be in Arts and Science, impressing my family and friends by talking nonsense about some esoteric branch of Chemical Physics. I could be walking in and out of that sleek glass rectangle that is the Faculty of Pharmacy, wearing a spotless white lab coat and puffed up like a self-important marshmallow.
But I am in Engineering. I impress no one with my complaints about valves and pumps. My friends shudder when they see my timetable, and roll their eyes when I say that I have to study on Friday nights. My lab coat is covered with grease and goodness knows what else. I have class in the highly unfashionable MC252, where seeing another female is like finding an extinct species.
I look back on my engineering undergrad at UofT and look back on the best four years of my life. Because I know the only profession that can take me where I want to go is Engineering.
By: Clara Lloyd
Editor – Science and Technology (Cannon.skule.ca)