UNDERGRADUATE SPOTLIGHT: THOMAS MACGOWAN
Hometown: Vancouver, B.C.
Program: Geological Engineering
Current year: 3rd
Why I chose Geology: I probably knew from about the age of 5 that I wanted to be an engineer, but I had a really hard time choosing exactly what type of work I wanted to do. I chose Geology because I think it offers opportunities to get involved in so many different fields, whether it’s mining, civil engineering or space exploration (which is still a partially serious dream of mine). More importantly I think one of things that attracted me was that Geological engineers typically work on big projects that involve a lot of team work, getting to go outside and many opportunities to travel!
Another thing that I like about the Geology department is that even at the undergraduate level, it is possible to learn about active research questions in the field. Almost every Friday, the department hosts a talk by students, faculty and alumni who speak about their career experience and the work they are doing currently. Professors will also hire some students for assistant jobs over the summer; last year I had a job working on research project that was looking at slope stability. I got to spend half of the summer in BC gathering three dimensional images with a laser scanner and taking many detailed photographs. Back in Kingston I had my own project working on a technique called photogrammetry which combines the photographic images and computes what the shapes look like as a 3D surface. The goal of the research was to use the 3D models from both methods and comparing them from different dates to look at how the ground had moved and potentially identify what caused the slides to occur.
In first year I was involved in the engineering executive committee as the webmaster, our job was to plan events and encourage people in our year to participate in extracurricular programs run by the Engineering Society. I had a fantastic time doing this and I met at least half of my friends at Queen’s by getting involved in first year. In second year I did a little bit less, but I was still an orientation leader for engineering frosh week which was so much fun to welcome new students to the Queen’s community. This year I went on exchange to Durham University in England and I got involved in two sports teams here as well as starting a networking group for Canadians who were studying abroad. For my final year at Queen’s I’m going to be a residence don and hopefully playing some intramural Frisbee and helping with a design team if I have any spare time! I’ve found that I enjoy trying new things each year; there’s so much to do and it’s impossible to fit everything in at once.
Figure 1: This is my office (with Ryan Kromer
in image, Geological Engineering Masters student)
The professor(s) or course which has influenced me the most so far:
The course that influenced me the most would have to be Introduction to Earth Systems and Engineering which is a geology course that all first year engineers take. Before I took APSC151, I was expecting to do mechanical engineering and go into robotics, but I was quite surprised by how interesting I found earth science, and I decided to change my initial program choice.
Most memorable Queen’s experience so far:
I think the best experience I’ve had a Queen’s so far is the Geological Engineering field school that happens over two weeks after finishing second year. It was a pretty stressful time, but it was a great chance to apply what we had learnt in class, and I think it was the moment when all the people in our geology class started to get really close.
After I graduate, I:
I think I’m going to try and work as hard as I can for a few years and get as much experience as I can, hopefully this will help me narrow down a field that I really like. At the moment I want to work in the rail industry building and maintaining infrastructure, but I’m also really interested in tunneling and urban transit. After I get some industry experience I might go back to school and do a masters if I felt it would be useful for what I wanted to do.
One big goal I’d like to accomplish during my lifetime:
My pretty basic goal is to enjoy the work I do. The final thing that I think is great about geology is that the problems faced are often unique, and the solutions by necessity can be creative, hopefully this keeps things interesting!