The University of Waterloo Engineer And Environmental Warrior!
Tiffany Mah wants engineers to help change attitudes to the environment.
Tiffany Mah has already benefited hugely from the University of Waterloo's pioneering co-operative education scheme, which combines study with work experience. She speaks about that - and her unwavering commitment to environmental sustainability.
What attracted you to studying engineering?
It’s a discipline that applies my favourite subjects to real-world applications. I wanted to study something which I could use in order to do my part to benefit the world. I've always been passionate about the environment, and have implemented waste management practices that promote environmental sustainability in my community, workplace and school. I believe that a greener future should not only rely on the efforts of large corporations, but should start with the individual. With all of these reasons in mind, I concluded that Environmental Engineering was the right discipline for me.
And since studying the subject formally, has your zeal increased?
Most definitely. My enthusiasm has grown since I stepped foot in the University of Waterloo. There are a wide variety of clubs and student teams that promote great causes, particularly those that are engineering related. Meeting students from upper years through orientation week and joining clubs that are just as passionate about their studies as I am has really inspired me to continually strive for my long-term goals.
You worked in a co-op job. Tell us about that.
I worked in Windsor for Nemak Aluminum Plant. They are an automotive manufacturing company that produces engine blocks for GM. In a corporate and manufacturing work environment, the pursuit of environmental excellence is a key objective that they aim for daily. Being an integral part of this pursuit has allowed me to take on a global perspective to being environmentally friendly.
So the co-op system has really complemented your studies?
The co-op program not only gives you a sense of what it is like to work in the real world, but it also gives you a competitive edge over other students. With five work terms, I hope to try a variety of co-op placements, from consulting to manufacturing.
The main reason that I chose the University of Waterloo's engineering program was because of its outstanding reputation with co-operative education. Co-op is also a good tool to figure out what types of jobs you want to pursue after your education. I am fortunate enough to have enjoyed my job in a manufacturing plant, and I could possibly see myself working for one in the future. However, I have heard from others that they definitely know what areas to avoid, for example IT services jobs. I feel that now is the right time to experiment with different jobs, so that you are more than satisfied with your long-term job when it comes to that.
What do you think are the biggest challenges in environmental engineering?
Promoting the importance of environmental sustainability not only in the work place, but also in the community. Since I am in one of the smallest engineering disciplines at Waterloo, at times it’s difficult to get my voice heard.
Do engineers have a strong role in making the case that the environment is paramount?
Yes, definitely, especially at a school that is well known for its technical studies. Even during my past co-op term, it was difficult at times for our environmental engineering department to communicate with the quality and process engineers about various environmental aspects. Since our department has no direct correlation with the product that is shipped out the door at the end of the day, we are sometimes put on the back burner. I definitely want to be a part of changing this mentality.
Overall, how has your experience been at the University of Waterloo?
I want to stress to incoming first-years that UW is a great school not only because of the quality of education you recieve, but the sense of community and belonging. There is literally something here for everyone. The amount of student teams, clubs and societies that I have seen on the list is outstanding; there's even a Cheese Club! I enjoyed being a part of my student council in high school, and I am now an active member of the Waterloo Engineering Society. They do a great job of supporting engineering students both academically and socially. They provide a variety of academic services such an online exam bank, resume critiques, mock interview events, etc. There are also social events, ranging from 24-hour scavenger hunts to theatrical productions. This term, I am a director for the Semi-Formal Event, the Waterloo Engineering Competition, and Student Deals. I'm very proud to be part of Student Deals; we are currently in the process of developing a student deals program with local businesses and restaurants to offer discounts for UW engineering students.
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