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The art and engineering of giving back

The Faculty of Engineering is the most diverse faculty at McMaster University. Find out why Mrinal Tiwari, a Software Engineering student from Lucknow, India, made the decision to call it home.

In a country on the opposite side of the world, a high school student sat in front of the glow of his computer screen, looking for a place to call home.

At the suggestion of his older brother, Mrinal Tiwari typed McMaster University into Google from his bedroom in Lucknow, a city in northern India with a population similar to Toronto. 

McMaster’s reputation for being a research-intensive university caught his eye, and felt even more promising by having a flexible co-op work option for students to gain real-world experience in industry.

With 61 years of engineering excellence, McMaster is located in the Golden Horseshoe of Ontario, a central hub of innovation. Known for its welcoming nature, diversity and inclusivity, McMaster seemed like the perfect place for Tiwari.

Last year, 15 per cent of approximately 4,800 undergraduate students in the Faculty of Engineering were international. Tiwari enrolled in Software Engineering with his sights set on co-op, and immersed himself in the McMaster community almost immediately.

Despite feeling like his English wasn’t as good as he hoped, Tiwari dived headfirst into experiential experiences and learning opportunities at McMaster. He became a promotional executive for the McMaster Indian Association, using social media acumen and in-person marketing strategies to lead the association in receiving more funding. 

Subsequently, Tiwari also led volunteers as a team lead for the Student Welcome Program and acted as a mentor for both international students and those in the McMaster Outreach Program. These roles allowed Tiwari to connect students to resources, help them strategize and hone their study habits and provide them with advice to help make the transition from high school to university as smooth as possible. 

As one experience so often leads to another, his mentorships helped him secure research assistantships in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Department of Maths and Statistics, where he worked extensively with analyzing data and graphs.

Though Tiwari is only in second year, he has also served as a teaching assistant in multiple math and physics courses, which has improved his English, interpersonal and leadership skills.

“I was shy at first,” says Tiwari, “but quickly realized that there was no need to be shy. I was drawn to participating in things outside of class. It was a kick-start for my career. I also got little supervision and I had to figure out the bulk of research all on my own. It was something that I had to take my own initiative and could not rely on supervision for.”

Last year, more than 1,700 students participated in more than 2,700 4-month co-op work terms across the globe. This summer, Tiwari will do the same.

At Fibics Incorporated in Ottawa, Tiwari will have the chance to apply his classroom learnings to his first ‘real-world’ job as a junior software developer. Fibics Incorporated has a mandate of developing applications of Focused Ion Beam (FIB) microscopy in the fields of Metallurgy and Materials Science. 

“I’m really looking forward to taking initiative and being part of a high-functioning team that follows agile methodology,” he says. “I like it when people say, ‘I don’t know how to do this,’ or, ‘I’m scared.’ I like when people are not shy about asking for help. I would encourage anyone who’s looking for answers to just ask questions.”

Tiwari’s love for the McMaster community is more than just a feeling. He puts his love into action by giving back and creating positive change, both on and off campus. Last spring, he attended a Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) meeting and decided to run for the role of undergraduate officer. 

He was elected and is now currently serving a second term. In this role, he speaks to and liaises with teaching assistants, and helps to process grievances that may arise.

When his co-op term in Ottawa ends this summer, he plans to develop ideas to create his own start-up after graduating from McMaster. His ultimate goal is to develop his own apps and build something from the ground up that can flourish.

He plans on making it happen by following his own advice.

“Work hard and never be shy,” says Tiwari. “Apply yourself and take initiative. Good things happen when you take initiative.”

As someone with the drive to succeed, experience as much as he can and still make contributions towards a brighter world, Tiwari shows no signs of slowing down 

“I’ve met amazing people at Mac and I want to continue helping people,” says Tiwari. “People are generally friendly, helpful and supportive. You never know when somebody will help you back.”