Convocation: Stories from engineering graduates

Faculty of Engineering
Student life
Two students showing off their university diplomas.
Students graduating from the Faculty of Engineering share stories of their top accomplishments, favourite memories and plans for after Convocation.

Sireen Hallal 

Bachelor of Applied Science (BASc) in Chemical Engineering 

B.B. King once said, “The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” I am 21 years of age, yet I have lived in three different countries. Between elementary and high school, I changed schools at least seven times. This was tough — tougher than I had ever imagined. With every move, I lost friends, family and a part of myself that I associated with that place. I began to wonder where “home” really was. However, no matter where I went, there is one thing that always stayed with me — learning. I kept my education as my priority because I knew that it couldn’t be taken away from me. It was the driver that kept me going.  

In 2018, at 17, I was accepted by the University of Ottawa with an admission scholarship. I chose to study chemical engineering, because I realized that I loved understanding processes, solving problems and exploring diverse fields. I had only moved to Canada a year earlier, so the difficulties of being a newcomer added to the challenge of beginning my studies. There were certainly many struggles along the way, but I was able to overcome them by having faith in myself and by studying for the purpose of learning.   

Apart from learning, my parents played a massive role in getting me to the position I am in today. No words will ever be enough to thank them. They sacrificed a lot and did everything they possibly could in order for my siblings and me to be well educated. They left everything and started from scratch in their 50s in a new country despite having already built their lives and careers. After many years, I finally realized that “home” is not one physical place; it’s anywhere with the people you love.   

I am now proud to be graduating with a bachelor’s in chemical engineering with a CGPA of 9.86, and I am on my way to becoming a practising professional engineer — the first in my family. In the future, I hope to inspire others, particularly young girls. If there is one thing I’ve realized from my experience, it would be that learning, adapting and discovering are key to getting through university and through life in general.   

Ojasvika Singh 

BASc in Computer Engineering 

As an international student, I faced many challenges during my undergraduate studies, including homesickness and the demanding nature of my program. However, the support I received from the University helped me overcome these obstacles and achieve my goals. Being far away from my family and friends was one of the most significant challenges I faced. I learned to stay connected with them through regular phone calls and messages. It wasn’t easy, but I realized the importance of staying motivated and not letting my homesickness affect my studies. 

Additionally, managing the academic demands of my program while taking care of my mental health was not easy. However, I found the support I needed from the University. The mental health programs it offered were an incredible resource for me, and the guidance from the faculty helped me stay on track and overcome the pressures of my program. The academic support from my professors helped me understand the course material better and achieve my best work. 

Through these experiences, I learned the importance of perseverance and resilience. I realized that even when things seem difficult, it’s essential to stay motivated and keep going. My parents, who worked hard to save for my education, were my primary inspiration. Additionally, my grandmother’s unwavering faith in me provided me with the motivation to overcome obstacles. 

I am proud of my accomplishment in building a fire sensing and extinguishing robot using machine learning and advanced concepts as part of my capstone project. It was a result of the hard work and dedication I put into my studies, and it gave me a sense of fulfilment. 

Overall, my time as an international student taught me the value of hard work, dedication and resilience. The support provided by the University helped me overcome my struggles, and I am grateful for the opportunities that it provided me. I look forward to using the knowledge and skills I gained during my studies to make a positive impact in the world. 

Rushi Patel 

Master of Engineering in Entrepreneurial Engineering Design (MEng) 

Reflecting on my time in the MEED (Master’s in Entrepreneurial Engineering Design) program, I can confidently say that it has been an incredible experience.  

As an engineering student at uOttawa, I often wondered whether I made the right choice between pursuing computer science or entrepreneurship. Thankfully, I stumbled upon the MEED program and eventually realized it was the perfect fit for me. It offered a unique blend of technical and business courses, which gave me a well-rounded education in entrepreneurship. Throughout the first two terms, I was able to take courses in technical skills, management, sales and design. This knowledge helped me when we transitioned into the second phase of the program, where we had to launch our own startup.  

Working in a team of four, we brainstormed several ideas before settling on one. With the support of the University and L-Spark (a Canadian startup accelerator), we were able to incubate our idea and build connections with potential founding members that helped us develop towards product-market fit. We are currently in the development stage and excited to seek investment soon.  

Without question, the mentorship provided by Dr. Hanan Anis, Leo Lax, Elza Seregelyi and the entire uOttawa and L-Spark team was integral to my success in the MEED program. I am incredibly grateful for their support every step of the way.  

Ultimately, I can say with confidence that the MEED program helped me acquire valuable entrepreneurial skills that I would not have gained in a traditional engineering program. I am excited to see where this experience takes me in the future, and eager to put my new skills into practice. 

Lingfeng Zhang 

Master of Computer Science, Concentration in Applied Artificial Intelligence 

During my master’s, I had the chance to engage in numerous interdisciplinary research endeavours, culminating in the publication of several high-impact research papers. Notably, my work stood out for its breadth, spanning various fields. It involved the application of artificial intelligence (AI) in medical imaging for my master’s thesis and conducting remote international research in AI for biology and medicine through an opportunity with Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.  

Additionally, I delved into AI applications in water quality during my CO-OP experience at Environment and Climate Change Canada and explored AI’s impact on traffic during my internship at the National Research Council Canada. Initially, I encountered the challenges of navigating unfamiliar territory and grappling with complex concepts. However, through dedicated efforts, I invested considerable time immersing myself in both computer science and related disciplines, ultimately achieving proficiency in interdisciplinary research.  

Throughout this transformative journey, my thesis supervisor, collaborators and friends served as a constant source of motivation, encouraging me to pursue my passion for research relentlessly. I discovered that when we discover a research topic that truly ignites our enthusiasm, it becomes the driving force behind our determination to overcome initial obstacles and forge ahead, even in the face of difficulties.  

Furthermore, maintaining a healthy research-life balance is crucial, especially amidst the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. During these extraordinary times, it becomes even more essential to strike a harmonious balance between academic pursuits and personal well-being.  

I consider it a pleasure to have undertaken my master’s studies at the University of Ottawa. The knowledge and experiences gained throughout my time here have been invaluable, and they will forever remain treasured memories on my academic journey. 

Vincent Côté-Larouche 

Bachelor of Applied Science (BASc) in Mechanical Engineering 

I started school in September 2017, and after three years of study, in winter 2020, I did an international exchange at University of Manchester, in the United Kingdom. There, I took part in a research project on excavation of lunar regolith by designing a rover to test different excavation methods. This experience allowed me to get an internship at Canadensys Aerospace in Stratford, Ontario. Over a year, I had the chance to work on amphibious military vehicles, satellite cameras and a prototype of the first Canadian rover to go on the moon (with a landing planned for 2026). I also did an internship at the Canadian Space Agency, where I worked on the development of a new simulation system to train astronauts on the Canadarm 2.   

When I returned to my studies in September 2021, I rejoined the University of Ottawa rover team (uORover), where I shared my technical and organizational leadership knowledge. The team has grown considerably and has enabled other students to do internships in the aerospace industry and robotics, while offering a comfortable, open workspace (The John McEntyre Team Space) where students feel that they can make mistakes and learn in their own way.   

My passion for space exploration and my different experiences beyond my courses have allowed me to apply classroom knowledge and to continue to work hard for my personal and professional development.    

Rama Obeid 

Bachelor of Applied Science (BASc) in Civil Engineering, Engineering Management and Entrepreneurship Option 

My name is Rama, and I am graduating in Civil Engineering with the Engineering Management and Entrepreneurship option. During my four years of undergrad, I also worked with CEED (Centre of Entrepreneurship and Design) as a program coordinator for engineering international students. I’m passionate about the design, construction and maintenance of physical and naturally-built environments. What lured me to civil engineering was the fact that it improves peoples’ lives. 

This newfound passion led me to complete a second degree. As I was told by my professors and mentors, sometimes the things that set you apart can be your biggest advantages. This was the case for me! Apart from working at CEED, I managed to be the Claude Laguë Entrepreneurial Student of the Year (2020–2021). I was able to make the Dean’s Honours List three terms and received a merit scholarship!  

Being a coordinator for the international students program is something that l’ve always wanted. As an immigrant myself, I remember when I first arrived in Canada three years ago and how much I struggled to get help, whether with school or finding a job and many other matters. Therefore, once I saw the job posting, I applied and was invited to an interview. Back then, I did not have the required qualifications — even my English level was very basic. However, I had the drive to learn and grow. Sometimes this is what matters the most. I tried my best to use my knowledge and experience to help other students or direct them to the right resources.  

My advice is this: Sometimes we want to make a difference, but don’t know where to start because doubt stands in our way. However, I believe that having this kind of feeling is a sign that you need to change your mindset. Address that fear or doubt and use every single resource you have to make the difference that you’ve always wanted to!