4 + 1 BSCE/MASC Program: An early start on graduate work

Posted on November 24, 2015

How high-GPA students can save a year on the way to their master’s

Kristian and Sam

SAVING A YEAR: ECE engineering students Kristian Zanette and Sam Webb are getting a head start on their ECE master’s degrees in the  4 + 1 BSCE/MASC Program.

No two students are precisely alike. There are among them varying qualities of academic talent, interest and dedication. Some are drawn to academic pursuit while others chomp at the bit to graduate, find jobs and begin their family lives. Each has preferences: areas of study they enjoy more than others. And, obviously, some struggle academically while others seem to learn almost effortlessly.

“You shouldn’t be able to ace a test,” says Queen’s electrical and computer engineering (ECE) professor John Cartledge with a smile. “But when I mark tests for my third-year electromagnetics course there is a group of students who do. I could be presenting more challenging material but there is also a group of students who fail the tests.”

It’s a classic pedagogical conundrum: how do you keep the sharpest and quickest students engaged in course material when they seem to advance beyond the majority of the class?

One way is the 4 + 1 BSCE/MASC Program. Here’s how it works: undergraduate students with a minimum 3.5 GPA can apply to the program in their third year. Successful applicants find faculty advisors and begin research over the spring and summer between third and fourth years. In fourth year, students continue working with their advisors, apply for the master’s program, and carry on with research projects and course work through the following spring and summer. By the end of their fifth year of study, students will have amassed a foundation of research experience and earned their master’s degrees. All this in five years rather than the usual six.

“I didn’t know I wanted to do grad school when I first came to Queen’s,” says 4 + 1 student Sam Webb. “By third year I started to realize that my interests are in power and power electronics. To get ahead in the field you really need graduate studies and this program is a good use of time. It saves me a whole year and lets me put my summer between third and fourth years to some good use as opposed to just getting a job. If I want to go further with research, I get started on it sooner, otherwise I can go to work sooner. Career-wise it seemed like a good move.”

The workload for those in the program isn’t much heavier; it’s just different from the usual fourth-year undergrad program and spread out over spring and summer terms. And 4 + 1 students get more direct interaction with faculty advisors.

“I meet with Dr Cartledge every week,” says 4 + 1 student Kristian Zanette. “I show him what I’ve done, he tells me how I did and where I go from there. You take away a lot more from that one-on-one chatting with the professor than if you were sitting down in classroom setting just listening to his lecture.”

“The master’s program gives students the opportunity to focus on a specific problem where the answers don’t come from the back of the textbook,” says Cartledge. “Students are challenged to look at problems that are more difficult to solve. It’s a different type of learning compared to just taking courses.”

For more information on the 4 + 1 BSCE/MASC Program, email ECE Graduate Program Assistant Debra Fraser fraser.d@queensu.ca or Undergraduate Program Assistant Patty Jordan patty.jordan@queensu.ca