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Kareem Baassiri

Meet the Faculty of Engineering’s valedictoriansJune 11, 2018

What advice would you give your first year self? What is your big idea? Meet Mitchell Kurnell, one of two valedictorians at the June 15 convocation for the Faculty of Engineering.

Name and Program

Mitchell Kurnell, Engineering Physics and Society

Where is your hometown?

I was born and raised in Mississauga, Ontario and I currently live in a small town called Omemee, Ontario.

What made you choose McMaster?

McMaster has a beautiful campus and you can feel the community that exists here. That was definitely what drove me to choose McMaster. That, coupled with the fact that McMaster has one of the best engineering schools.


What are you doing after graduation?

I am currently planning on working in the space industry. I am taking the summer off to travel and destress from school for a while, and then I’ll start looking for a career in that field. I recently returned from a three week trip in Europe and I might drive out to the west and east coast of Canada. I’ll see where the world takes me.

What advice would you give your first year self?

I would tell my first year self not to worry so much. My marks weren’t very good in my first year and I got down on myself. I learned that if you don’t worry so much, you will gain an interest in the projects you’re doing and you will push through. Things will get better once you get into the upper years.

Do you have any advice for future and current students?

I would tell future students and current first year students to really take some time to try to figure out what your passions are. Once I figured out what I was passionate about, I became driven to keep on pushing through midterms, assignments and exams. I kept pushing towards a final goal.

How has McMaster shaped the person you are today?

During my time at McMaster, I had a lot of fun opportunities to get involved with different  extracurricular activities like the McMaster Engineering Society (MES) and the McMaster Interdisciplinary Satellite Team. These clubs gave me a lot skills that I could not develop in the classroom such as communication, patience and leadership. I applied technical skills to really tough problems. I think those experiences really helped shaped who I am today.

What events did you enjoy the most at McMaster?

My favourite event was watching July Talk perform during Welcome Week. I really enjoyed the band and it was a great experience to get to see them perform live on stage.

What is your definition of success?

To have the feeling that you’re making a positive contribution and helping the world.

How has McMaster helped you create a brighter world?

During my time at McMaster, I had a few opportunities to talk to high school students, first year students and elementary students about the opportunities that McMaster Engineering can provide to help students build a better world. I think helping to inspire students is really one of the ways McMaster helped me make a brighter world.

What is your big idea to create a brighter world?

To increase humanity’s presence in space. When we travel the cosmos we have to overcome a lot of problems and in solving these problems, we are developing technologies not only for the space industry but we are developing technologies we can bring back home that can help improve life here as well.

What motivates you to work hard?

Perfectionism. I’m motivated to work hard because I continually want to be better. I want to learn more about how the world works. There’s so much knowledge out there that we have uncovered and there’s so much that we have not figured out yet. What really pushes me is I want to help humanity understand more about the world.

If you could have any superpower what would it be and why?

I would definitely want to fly. I hate traffic so that superpower would avoid that problem all together. Also, you gain a unique perspective that not many people have.

Who is your favourite professor? Why?

I have two favourite professors. Dr. Harold Haugen and Cam Churchill made a very profound impact on my experience here at McMaster. They had great lecturing styles, really tried to engage their students and did their best to get the students involved in the material. I can’t thank them enough for the impact they had on my time here.

How do you relax?

I have been playing music for about 12 years now, primarily guitar. That’s the best way to disengage from everything around me. Sit down with my guitar, play around for an hour and totally relax and get rid of the stress I had been feeling that day. I write my own music, but I haven’t released it.