VIDEO: Dustin Brennan: Masters Candidate in Civil Engineering

Posted on May 16, 2017

Dustin Brennan is a Master's candidate in the Department of Civil Engineering at Queen's. He's working on the installation of the new moving load simulator in Ellis Hall. Maybe his story about his chosen academic and career path will help you to navigate your own.

Learn more about the Department of Civil Engineering at Queen's and Graduate Studies at Queen's.

  • Video Transcript:

    My name is Dustin Brennan. I'm Master's student studying structures in civil engineering under the supervision of Dr Amir Fam.

    After finishing my year off, went to the University of Ottawa, where I studied Civil Engineering with a focus on structures and geotechnical engineering and then when I graduated from the University of Ottawa, it was actually in my fall semester that another professor came into my class and told us about graduate studies. The deadlines were coming up and stuff like that. When I heard about that, I knew that I wanted to do something more than just have an undergraduate degree so I decided to my master's.

    It didn't take me very long to look through professors in the area of the discipline that I wanted to look into and I found Dr. Fam pretty quickly. I just sent him an email. It was pretty easy. He replied to me and it was that simple. It was just, I read a couple of his papers and I knew that I wanted to do what he was doing research in and he liked me so he took me on.

    I treat it a lot more like a nine-to-five job whereas when I was doing my undergrad I was working sort of weird hours, sleeping in and staying up late. Now usually I come in at nine and leave at five. I'm a lot less stressed out to be honest. In my undergrad there were a lot of deadlines and stuff like that. With a master's is sort of like I'm my own boss. They told me when I started here that I am my own project manager.

    I'm actually using the new moving load simulator, so it's a big machine that mimics vehicle loads on bridge components. So, what that induces is fatigue in the structure so I'm studying the fatigue of pre-stressed concrete beams or bridge superstructures under dynamic loads.

    Definitely go and do some research on your professor. Find out what kind of research you want to be doing and go and try to locate some of the professors who are in that field. Also, try to find a professor you can get along with. I've been given that advice in the past and more and more I'm seeing that's one of the most important things about it, is that you've got to find someone you can agree with and that you can be personable with.

    When I started, I was worried that I wasn't going to have enough money to participate. But you get paid as a master's of applied science student and also I was able to get OSAP. I got a little bit of OSAP and I get a monthly paycheque which is great and so on top of that Queen's gives you a graduate scholarship. So, in combination - OSAP, scholarship and pay - I'm doing all right. I'm actually not in any financial crises.