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Off to school....

Students in the Greater Toronto Area are in the enviable position of having three top-notch universities to choose from if they want to study chemical engineering. The universities of McMaster, Toronto and Waterloo all offer highly regarded four-year bacherlo's degrees. So how's a person to choose where to study?

All of the schools have high academic standards - typically an average of 80% or more in OAC subjects to get accepted by McMaster or Toronto, and 75% or more for Waterloo. If Waterloo's average is a bit lower, it may have less to do with the quality of student, and more to do with its search for well-rounded applicants. Waterloo is the only university to look at non-academic criteria when deciding which applicants to accept.

Waterloo's Associate Chair, Undergraduate Studies, Ian Macdonald, MCIC, notes that the Personal Information form sent out with the acknowledgement of the student's application "has significant weight in making admission and scholarship decisions. A number of applicants with lower [than 75%] averages are admitted on the basis of additional factors such as evidence of a strong aptitude and interest in engineering, extensive involvement in extra-curricular activities, additional background beyond the minimum six OAC course and performance on the Descartes Mathematics Contest."

Assuming they'll be accepted, students with an interest in a particular field can narrow the choice by looking at the specialties offered at each university. In this time of environmental awareness, it is not surprising that all three schools have environmental engineering specialties available within their chemical engineering programs.

McMaster also offers process control and biomedical engineering specialties.

The U of T has a "fundamentals" program (which includes reaction engineering, process) control, and other topics). It also offers concentrations in nuclear, polymer and biotechnical engineering.

The specialties available at Waterloo comprise transport processes, mathematical analysis and control, polymer science and engineering, pollution control, industrial biochemical technology, and extractive and process metallurgy.

Perhaps the best known difference among the schools is in how they structure their programs. Waterloo's mandatory co-op program was conceived as a way to give students exposure to the work environment during their studies. All Waterloo students go on six, four-month work terms. As a result, it takes them five years to earn their four-year bachelor of engineering degree, but they graduate with relevant work experience.

The university of Toronto has a similar (though optional) program called the Professional Experience Year. Students choosing to enter this program work for one company for up to 16 months between their second and third year of studies. Which approach is better? That depends on your perspective.

With the Waterloo co-op system, students are exposed to many companies and different types of work. On the other hand, by the time they've started to feel comfortable on the job, it is time to leave. The U of T's approach gives students an in-depth experience with one company. The students should be able to take on more challenging types of work, but if it turns out that there is a poor fit between a student and a company, they're both stuck.

Apart from co-op or experience year options, some students may find themselves unable to afford four straight full-time years of study. Although it's not easy to do an engineering degree part-time, the University of Toronto is the only school offering that option. The workloads is still very heavy (at least half the normal load), but it makes it possible to hold down a demanding part-time job while completing your studies.

McMaster University has not combined studies with work, but it does offer two unique, five-year degree: the bachelor of engineering and management, and, new this year, the bachelor of engineering and society program. Department chair, Philip Wood, MCIC, explains, "The five-year management program combines the regular four-year engineering program with additional courses from the faculty of business."

At the end of the program, students who have developed a strong interest in business may complete an MBA at McMaster in one extra year. Even graduates who are not interested in doing a full MBA are likely to find themselves standing out from the crowd if they apply for engineering jobs with a management element.

The engineering and society program includes the full scientific and technical curriculum of the regular engineering program, along with extra courses with three objectives:

To examine the place of technology in society by looking at issues such as how engineering design can be made more sensitive to long-term environmental consequences.

To further the development of intellectual skills, teaching critical thought, analysis and presentations skills.

To give engineers a more liberal education, through in-depth study of a topic in the humanities or social sciences.

Some students may also feel more comfortable with the smaller class sizes at McMaster, which tends to only have 30 to 40 students in each year of the program. On the other hand, at U of T and Waterloo, where there can be up to 150 students in any given year, there are more staff and thus more optional courses available.

Once the student decides where to study, McMaster and the University of Toronto try to ease the transition from high school to university with the aid of a faculty member specifically responsible for watching over the first-year students.

To help with a different kind of transition, the U of T offers the Armik Engineering Program which, says Associate Chair, Undegraduate Studies, Will Cluett, MCIC, "encourages young people from the First Nations to become engineers by providing special counselling and a personal academic tutor if needed."

The U of T seems to be the successful at attracting and keeping female students, with the proportion of female students ranging from 29% in the current second year class to 47% in the fourth year class. At the other schools, the classes range from 22% to 35% women, but there is a lot of fluctuation from year to year, so it is hard to say if one of the programs is consistently more successful than the others.

As part of a conscious effort to attract and retain women, the U of T recently held an open house specifically for women in engineering, and organized events like Career as a consultant to organize events like Career Choice workshops for the female engineering students.

None of the schools have preferential admission criteria for women, but the U of T and McMaster have recognized the need to reach girls early, before social pressures have turned many of them away from math and science. To do so (as well as to interest a wider range of boys) both hold summer science and engineering camps for elementary and early high school aged children. They try to ensure that at least half the campers are girls, and the U of T also sees to it that half the camp staff are women, so the girls have female role models.

It's not only recent high school graduates who might be interest in university engineering programs. Practicing engineers in the greater Toronto area will be interested to know that the U of T offers a large engineering continuing education program, and McMaster allows qualified chemical engineering graduates to take graduate level courses.

McMaster also offers short courses off-campus on topics such as polymer production technology, process control, polymer processing, optimization and polymer colloids, foams and statistical process control.

The U of T's continuing education program offers APEO-related courses, as well as professional development courses such as occupational health and safety, project management, software development methods and tools.

How can a prospective student find out more about engineering as a career option, and where he or she would prefer to study? To begin with, a wide range of brochures about chemical engineering are available from all three universities. As well, they all have a high school liaison program, which typically includes speakers from the university who will go to the schools to talk to the students, as well as opportunities for interested students to come visit the campus. all of them also hold an open house day or weekend for interested members of the public.

If you are thinking of going off to school and what more information right away, contact:

Philip Wood, MCIC, Chair, McMaster University, Department of Chemical Engineering, Hamilton, Ont. L85 4L7; Tel: 416-525-9140; Fax: 416-521-1350:

Will cluett, MCIC, Associate Chair, Undergraduate Studies, University of Toronto, Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, 200 College Street, Toronto, Ont. M5S 1A4; Tel: 416-978-3063; Fax: 416-978-8605:

Ian F. Macdonald, MCIC, Associate Chair, Undergraduate Studies, University of Waterloo, Department of Chemical Engineering, Waterloo, Ont. N2L 3G1; Tel: 519-885-1211; Fax: 519-746-4979.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Chemical Institute of Canada
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:chemical engineering programs at University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, McMaster University
Author:Frank, Tema A.
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Date:Jul 1, 1992
Previous Article:Managing the nation, managing the business, managing the technology and managing the human resource.
Next Article:Division hears how problems can become solutions.

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