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PhD Candidate: Qiang Xu

Department of Computing and Software, McMaster University

Where did you do your engineering graduate co-op?

Last year, I was a research intern at Microsoft Research, Redmond, Seattle in USA. My project there was a location awareness project. I had the chance to work with a few awesome guys to develop end-to-end GPS system to provide very energy efficient location awareness system. It was an awesome experience. Every year, Microsoft recruits 200 research interns and most of them are PhD students. [These PhD students] are doing pretty much research jobs and some prototyping. It was really fun there. 

From your co-op experience, what is the most important thing you learned?

 The most important thing I learned is the difference between doing academic research and research in the industry. When you are doing research in the university, the output is in a bunch of papers. However, when doing research in the industry the output is a product. At the end of the day, the product will be applied to day to day living.

Why did you decide to do a co-op in your graduate studies?

Four years ago, when I was applying for PhD opportunities in China and Canada, I decided on Canada because I enjoyed the colder weathers. For McMaster, the engineering graduate studies is very like around the world. Also, I was particularly interested in the research my supervisor was doing and her research was very relevant to my interests. 

Why do you think a graduate co-op is important?

 I think a co-op or internship program is very important, especially for engineering students. You know engineering is about development and developing something in an university environment is very different from developing something in the “real world”. You get an understanding of what the real world engineering process looks like. Most importantly, this experience is very valuable for your future career development and the chance to meet other professionals in the industry.