Yosamin Esanullah is in her first-year at UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering. The Schulich Scholar started her journey to become a professional engineer in September 2020. Yosamin just wrapped up her first official midterm season, the School of Engineering checked in to see how she is doing.
What drew you to engineering? And to UBC Okanagan?
When I was younger I used to gape at whatever little constellations I could pick out from the night sky in the city. Sometimes I could even catch a glimpse of the international Space Station (ISS) as it orbited the Earth despite all of the light pollution, and I would wave frantically at it. The image I had of myself there, in the ISS, conducting front-line research and controlling the Canadarm is what drew me to engineering. I hold a deep and insatiable curiosity for deep space, to explore the cosmos, and to understand our position in it. As an engineer, the options are limitless in entering the space industry. I could help build the next Hubble or James Webb telescope, the next Perseverance rover. I could lead ground control at the next manned crew to Mars, if I’m not a part of the crew myself!
What drew me to UBC Okanagan was the plentiful research opportunities for undergraduate students and the supportive faculty. When talking with recruitment officers about the School of Engineering, I thought to myself “this is what a community looks like.”
What has been the impact thus far of being a Schulich Scholar?
The greatest impact that the Schulich Scholarship has had on me is an understanding that improbable goals can come true, that I can do it, and that I’m believed in. It took a village of people who had faith in me and helped me get to this point, especially from my dear teachers. It meant a lot to me that I could make them proud.
What have been your initial impressions of engineering at UBC Okanagan?
My initial impression of engineering at UBC Okanagan is that it is certainly challenging! I’m still trying to find work-life balance, and have time for my extracurricular interests, as well as put myself out there to find new opportunities. It can get a little bit frustrating when I don’t get my daily to-do lists finished, or when certain mathematical or physics related concepts don’t come naturally to me. Even so, I feel that I am in my zone and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else!
Describe your term so far. What has it been like? High points? Challenges?
Online school might not have been the same experience I was looking forward to, but I’m still really grateful. My professors are understanding and accommodating. I’ve made awesome online friends whom I’m eager to meet in person. The material is very foundational at this point, I’m looking forward to branching out in specialty. One of the higher points of the term so far is watching my Solidworks proficiency develop, I definitely struggled in that software starting out. Getting the hang of it now, I feel like a wizard!
I find the greatest challenge I’ve had to conquer is my ability to focus for longer periods of time when I’m in a space as comfortable as my room. Not having a distinct separation of space has made checking my phone feel like muscle memory, and it actively distracts me from my recorded lectures. Sometimes I find I’m forced to leave my phone at home and retreat to the nearby library just so I can get more work done (where I wear a mask and social distance, of course).
Favourite courses and instructors in so far?
My favourite course has to be 179, Linear Algebra for Engineers with Dr. Mehran Shirazi. I’ve always been a sucker for math, patterns, and intuitive calculations. Memorizing and applying different theorems is my jam. Not to mention, Dr. Shirazi is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. I’m grateful for how accommodating he is. He ensures every student has equal access to learn, and genuinely cares for his students.
I also enjoy 171 CAD/CAM with Dr. Ray Taheri. This is definitely one of the more difficult learning curves I’ve had to adapt to. The notorious Solidworks and final design projects have pushed me far beyond my comfort zone. Having to lead a team in recreating the Mars Perseverance rover in Solidworks, when I’m still learning the basics myself, has been a gratifying challenge. I sincerely appreciate the plentiful office hour(s) availability that Dr. Taheri has scheduled during the week to support us with these projects, and I’m inspired by his passion for engineering.
You are obviously a gifted student, but what has the transition from high school to university been like for you?
Transitioning from high school to university feels like finally taking the horse by the reigns. This time, I’m in charge of my education. I have no expectations to meet other than my own, and it’s my decision to be here rather than a government mandate. I’m empowered to have chosen this program and to be trying my best.
What specialization are you leaning towards at this point, what were your determining factors?
I’m finding it difficult to settle on one major, and I’m feeling a little defeated that I can’t choose them all! Every field of engineering appeals to a different interest of mine, and any one of them can lead to a career in the space industry. For now, I’ve got my eye on mechanical engineering with a minor in computer science, but I’m open for that to change so long as I enjoy what I’m learning.
What’s been your experience overall since the start of the pandemic?
I have mixed emotions on online learning. For one, I’m still learning the material, making meaningful connections, and pursuing ambitious opportunities. I’m still at home for now, and living with a house full of family. Even so, like many others I feel a lingering sense of solitude .
What do the next few years look like for you?
In the next few years, I’m going to make the most out of my university experience. I’ll be pursuing research opportunities and joining lots of clubs to quench my many interests! Not to mention the Go Global CIE program where I’ll apply to study in a different nation for a semester. I’m currently pursuing a summer expedition program to the Arctic, and I’m praying that the pandemic will settle slightly by then.
What are some of your goals once you complete your undergrad?
I’ve got too many goals to count once I complete my undergrad! Perhaps pursuing my Masters of PhD at MIT, or the International Space University in France. I’ll absolutely be trying for the engineering development program at the Canadian Space Agency, where they would train aspiring astronauts to work in nearly any sector of the Agency. For now, I’m open-minded and optimistic!