VIDEO: Anne McIsaac: Masters candidate in civil engineering

Posted on May 19, 2017

In the latest in our profiles of graduate students in civil engineering we meet Anne McIsaac. Anne started out in grad school in pursuit of an MEng degree but moved into a Master's of Applied Science degree early on. She's researching fibre-reinforced polymers and plans to build a career rehabilitating existing structures.

  • Video transcript:

    Hi, my name is Anne McIsaac I am currently working on my Master's of Applied Science in civil engineering here at Queen's University under the supervision of Dr Amir Fam.

    Personally, I'd love to go into the building science the restoration side of civil engineering which is somewhat what my thesis is on but I really want to take old structures, whether it be a historic structure, just one that needs a little love, and fix them up and make them up-to-code and useable.

    I actually worked for a construction company every summer during my undergrad and I interacted with a lot of different consultant firms and a lot of people at those firms had a master's degree but what they actually had was a Master's in Engineering, which is the course-based master's I started off doing. I applied and was accepted to the MEng, then Dr. Fam actually approached me to do a Master's of Applied Science and he showed me all the benefits of doing it.

    Doing a Master's of Applied Science teaches you many soft skills, whether it be project management or even just communication skills that you don't necessarily get out of an MEng since it is mainly, at least for civil engineering, mainly a course-based Master's I'm currently working on the rehabilitation of concrete structures, existing structures with fibre reinforced polymers. What I'm doing a bit different is I'm looking at bio-based resins so trying to remove some of the petroleum-based resins that we're using and replacing them with more sustainable alternatives. On a day-to-day basis I typically come into the office, have my coffee read emails, we get a lot of emails, but then I go down to the lab, that's my favourite part, whether it's being in the lab whether it's fabricating specimens or testing them, and then we get to analyze the data On a normal day sometimes it's more time in the office, more time in the lab. It varies. The relationships you form during your Master's or ever your PhD are completely different than the ones you form during your undergrad. First of all you interact a lot more with the professors, whether it's your supervisor or the other professors because you can always just go to them to get help and also, your fellow students aren't working on the same project as you.

    We each have different projects but we all come together and help each other. It's not like in your undergrad where you're like, 'Okay, let's have a study session and cram all night. No, it's more cooperation.

    You build a good team spirit with your colleagues.

    I think the main advice I have for anyone looking into pursuing graduate studies is to shop around with different professors and different projects because you are focused on one specific project You go from this very diverse undergraduate degree to a very precise research topic, so you better make sure it's something you're going to enjoy doing, something that you're passionate about It's really taking the time to choose your project and choose who you're going to be working with.