A Year in Reflection

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Wow, I’ve been pretty silent this past year.  But I’m excited to announce that it wasn’t because of a lack of news, but rather the result of being immersed in a large life change.  Exactly one year ago, I returned from a life-altering research trip to Portugal and Spain.  While I was there, I had the opportunity to work with disadvantaged elementary schools in Porto, the second-largest city in Portugal.  Along with three other engineering researchers, we gave talks about scientists who were also composers/musicians, and how music influenced their life work.  We also gave live performances of compositions written by the scientists, including pieces by Benjamin Franklin and Leonardo di Vinci.  But the best part of our tour was seeing the way the students responded to our visit.  They were so excited and engaged, and even prepared projects to show us when we arrived.  One of my favourites was Galileo’s lute created out of paper mache with brightly coloured foam planets strung across the instrument.  This visual representation of the connections between science and music resonated so strongly within me that when I returned to my hotel room, I took a look at my life.  I had to admit that while I was interested in my signal processing research, I was passionate about cross-disciplinary workshops and presenting to kids.  What started out as an occasional volunteer activity years ago had become my favourite aspect of research.  I wanted to create more workshops for schools, combining seemingly unrelated subjects and showing the amazing connections between science and the arts.

So I did the unthinkable.  When I returned to Calgary, I told my supervisor, my department head, and my graduate studies head that I was ready for a change.  I loved research, but I wanted to focus on engineering education and the integration of engineering concepts in non-traditional areas.  What happened next surprised me, and filled me with gratitude.  Not only were they understanding, they all helped me transition to the area I wanted to work in.  Within weeks, I had transferred completely to a new lab, new supervisor, and a new thesis topic.  After a crazy year learning about education innovation, early engineering education and curriculum objectives, I developed a series of projects to help grade 5 teachers describe the basics of electricity to their students.  After working with approximately 300 students and teachers in the Calgary area to test my modules, I am now months away from defending my masters thesis.  I recently won the University of Calgary’s Three-Minute Thesis competition with a presentation of my engineering education research work (video coming soon!).  Even better, I have plans to continue with a PhD in this area.  I can’t believe how much I enjoy my research work.  I am incredibly appreciative of this day job that allows me to combine intellectual freedom, engineering, education, and even my love of the arts.

Long story short, it’s been a wild year, but also an extremely rewarding one.  Add in a marriage proposal from the love of my life, and the purchase of a new home with my new fiance, and you have the recipe for the last 12 months of my life!  Thanks for reading, I hope to update more often now.  I have a couple of conferences coming up in the next month, and I can’t wait to share those experiences with you.

New media links: 

http://www.ucalgary.ca/news/utoday/april23-2013/who-is-the-best-thesis

http://www.ucalgary.ca/news/utoday/april29-2013/three-minute-thesis

Three-Minute Thesis video coming soon!

Also coming soon… a co-authored, two-part publication with Circuit Cellar, a commercial electronics magazine.

Visit me at the Workplace Speaker Network!

http://workplacespeakernetwork.com/speaker/22904239126741136/

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