It’s an honour to be selected as a valedictorian for your graduating class. Perhaps even more significant is being named the first-ever valedictorian for a program.
This was the case for recent graduate George Fares who helped mark a milestone for McMaster University’s W Booth School of Engineering Practice & Technology’s Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) in Automotive & Vehicle Engineering in June 2023.
Now a Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering at McMaster working as a Systems Design and Integration Tech Specialist for the EcoCAR Team, Fares shares insights and advice for current students.
How did it feel to be valedictorian, and how do you hope your address inspired others?
It felt very surreal. To be a representative of the entire engineering class was an experience I never really thought would have happened to me. It didn’t really settle in until I was up on stage delivering the words and looking out at the massive crowd that sat before me.
I really hope that it inspires everyone in B.Tech to go big. I mentioned in my speech that we are all coming from a school with extremely notable alumni and that we are all capable of creating a better world. I really hope that message sticks with the B.Tech people especially.
Bachelor of Technology students are some of the brightest, most passionate and most motivated students. I made lifelong friends, and we all helped each other push past our limits. B.Tech is an incredible program and I hope that being valedictorian shows them that there are no limits no matter what qualifications you may have.
What have you been doing since graduating from B.Tech?
I have begun working on my Ph.D. degree here at McMaster in Mechanical Engineering! I am over at MARC working under Dr. Ali Emadi for the EcoCAR project. I’m really enjoying my studies here at Mac. B. Tech really made me appreciate what I was learning and made me want to discover more of what the automotive industry had to offer.
Who has been the most influential person in your time at McMaster?
It’s a little bit difficult to narrow it down to just one person. So many people helped me get through those years with confidence. The people that influenced me the most were Drs. Timber Yuen, Ahmed Fakhr and Moein Mehrtash. These three individuals made my time in B.Tech an extremely memorable one. Dr. Timber’s influence began almost a year before I even entered the program. I met him at the Ontario University Fair in November of 2017, and he told me everything there is to know about B.Tech and why it would be the perfect fit for someone like myself who enjoys cars so much.
Dr. Ahmed Fakhr was a great professor during my time in B.Tech, his passion for teaching and student success really made me want to be the best version of myself. Dr. Moein Mehrtash was also an incredible guiding hand throughout the later stages of the program as he too wanted his students to be the best. All three of these professors were so helpful and always helped when anyone asked them to. I’ve also got to give credit to the friends I made along the way, I couldn’t have made it without them!
What is one piece of advice you would give to your first-year self?
One piece of advice I’d give to my first-year self is to just not give up and not let my failures define me. It’s hard to stay motivated after finishing a semester with low marks or to find a reason to continue pursuing a good grade after doing badly on a midterm. I would tell myself to stand back up and still strive and ask for help. There’s no shame in doing badly, don’t feel sorry for yourself just try to do your best, and if all else fails, you can always try again!
How has the B. Tech program prepared you for your future?
I feel that B.Tech has helped me understand just what it’s like to work in a team. My capstone especially helped me understand how to navigate engineering problems with likeminded individuals and try to come up with a solution that is well designed. Of course, these design skills came from what I learned in B.Tech. The mandatory co-op also helped with that too considering it exposed me to industry standards and regular industry practices very early on.
Were there any specific challenges or obstacles you faced during your academic journey? How did you overcome them?
I tell this story a lot, but I failed four courses throughout my years in B.Tech, three in my first year and one in my second year. I was certainly at a low point, but I tried these courses again and gained a new appreciation for what it is that I am learning, and I then created more long-term goals for myself and always remembered what I’m working towards.
What do you hope to gain from your graduate studies?
The summer really helped me get into the groove of grad studies, and I’m happy I was recently able to get into a Ph.D. program and continue my research. Creating connections is a great benefit that I’ve experienced so far in grad school. I’ve already begun work on a lot of really amazing projects that are very exciting for the industry as a whole and have even gotten started on my first paper. That’s not to say I haven’t been relaxing, that’s definitely important as burnout is definitely not good.
I’ve also been contributing to my grad community as an executive member of the EGS (Engineering Graduate Society) to make sure that life at Mac for my fellow constituents is comfortable and can foster their endeavors. Being on this council also helped me further my connections and helped me make a lot of new friends along the way, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what will come with the foundations I’ve created these last couple of months since convocation.