Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
While pursuing my undergraduate degree in Assam, I was able to work on a low-cost tamarind fruit shell-based filter prototype to remove fluoride from groundwater sources - this was my first step into research work. I thoroughly enjoyed the various aspects of research - while the questions and results added on to my knowledge, the challenges and setbacks helped me become more resilient and strong-willed. Graduate school offered me the opportunity to be trained as a researcher in designing and understanding environmental systems broadly and in particular resilient water systems, and it was the next logical step to further my career in water engineering.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
UBC offered me a perfect combination of a supportive advisor, state-of-the-art laboratories, a stimulating research environment, and a vibrant cohort of researchers to learn and share my ideas with. Financial support in the form of scholarships, and research and teaching assistantships also played a major role in my decision to pursue graduate studies at UBC as an international student. The campus, located in a picturesque location, alongwith the great number of engaging events around the campus offered an opportunity for immense personal growth in addition to significant progress in my professional life.
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
My graduate program - MASc in Civil Engineering with a specialization in Environmental Systems Engineering - is well rounded with courses offered across all areas of environmental engineering - water treatment, wastewater treatment, resource recovery, energy, and with opportunities to take courses from other departments like Chemical and Biological Engineering and Mining Engineering. Such a flexible program, with regular opportunities to interact with researchers across various disciplines through weekly seminars and the Water and Student Environment Talks (WEST) was quite attractive to me. My research group under Dr. Pierre Berube is engaged in drinking water treatment with membranes and biological ion exchange which was one of my key interest areas for graduate study.
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
I was most surprised by how much Vancouver was similar to my hometown of Guwahati in Assam! It rains quite a lot back home, so I was quite ready for “Raincouver”. The multiculturism of the city never ceases to amaze me. I was also able to keep in touch with my Assamese roots by engaging with the thriving Assamese community in Vancouver. It is like I never left home.
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?
As I am working on my thesis, the one thing I am most excited about is to interpret the outcome of my work. Additionally, I am looking forward to graduating and starting a new phase in my professional life.
What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?
I think one of the biggest challenges in a research-based masters degree is the transition to industry. The work culture in labs and industry is quite different. While work in the labs is usually quite independent and isolated, working in industry calls for more teamwork and collaboration. While I see this as a challenge, it is definitely not impossible to overcome.
How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?
Discipline, hard work, and analytical thinking are very important in a research career and my program has helped me immensely to develop these skills. My program also offers substantial opportunities to develop teamwork ethics as many courses call for teamwork. Additionally, UBC organizes many competitions throughout the terms that are based specifically on working in teams, developing research skills, and time management. During the summer of 2019, I worked with Metro Vancouver through the UBC Sustainability Scholars Program, allowing me to get a glimpse of how an influential organization and in broader terms, an industry works. Networking events organized by my program have also helped me build meaningful connections with industry professionals. These opportunities have collectively made me quite ready for the next phase of my career.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?
The opportunity to do research for my undergraduate capstone projects as well as the immense support and encouragement of my professors have prepared me for a graduate program at UBC. Connecting with research students in my lab group also gave me an idea of what to expect from the program and helped me to mentally prepare for this phase of my life. I also have to acknowledge the support of my family and friends has played a major role in my decision to pursue graduate studies in a city so far away from home.
What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?
I usually turn to a lazy day with a warm cup of coffee and a book for relaxation. However, I do try to experience different cuisines and get together with friends to relax. Going for a short walk in parks or just enjoying the beautiful summer sunshine outside are some of the simple joys of life in Vancouver.
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
My advice for newer graduate students to UBC is to keep their minds open not only to expand their academic careers but also the human connections. Graduate school is challenging and often overwhelming, but it is worth it! Taking care of one’s health, particularly their mental health, is extremely important. If they need any more incentives to decide for UBC - let me tell you that we also have an annual snowball fight each winter!