Balancing Outdoor Adventure And Engineering

"When I learned about the opportunities in engineering, I saw that as the path to pursue over other programs, including straight science."

Marcus Athans

Marcus Athans

What got you interested in engineering?

In high school I was very motivated to study science and math, but I didn’t really know where that could take me in terms of a career. I didn’t really see myself going to medical school or being a dentist or something. When I learned about the opportunities in engineering, I saw that as the path to pursue over other programs, including straight science. 


Why engineering is a versatile and future-proof degree

How did you decide on UBC?

I applied to university after high school but then deferred my entry for several years to pursue ski-racing. I was on the BC team and tried to make it on the World Cup circuit, but that was not to be. After three years it seemed best to hang up the boots and start school again. It was a crazy transition: I hadn’t touched a school book for a long time! 

As for choosing UBC, I’m from Kelowna, so I liked the idea of studying at the UBC Vancouver campus to move away from my home base. 

I felt very out of my element at first, but after a few months and meeting friends, I settled in. 

UBCV and UBCO have something for everyone


Marcus skiing

How did you choose Civil Engineering? 

I originally thought I wanted to pursue mechanical engineering, to work on developing skis or bikes or other outdoor gear. It was once I started doing first-year projects, talking with people and going to networking events I realized that a career in civil engineering was something I definitely wanted to pursue. 

Civil is such a broad discipline, and I really like all the options it offers. You can do things with geology, surveying and ground modeling, or get into designing buildings and infrastructure like skyscrapers and bridges.

Mechanical engineering  Civil engineering

What are some of the highlights of your university education so far?

I really enjoyed my second-year courses. They focused on the topics that really interest me, compared to first year, which, is of course, much mor general. I really enjoyed Civil 230, which is about how structures are health up. Civil 201 is the design course and was really great. You’re put into teams and challenged to design a bridge out of eight long pieces of wood and then there’s a competition to see which bridge can hold the most weight. 

We used some software to model different design options and then we built the bridge by hand. Our bridge held up around 6,000 pounds. 

Civil Courses  

Marcus project

Have you had any co-op experiences?

I’m starting my first co-op position in May. It’ll be an eight-month term in Kelowna, where I’ll be working with Urban Systems. This was my number one pick. My understanding is that I’ll be going to project sites and learning how things work there. There’s going to be a lot of cost estimates, water modelling, that kind of thing I’m excited to be able to learn from lots of different projects.

Co-op  Urban Systems

Why Co-op? Launch Your Career While Still A Student

What’s your life like as a student at UBC Vancouver?

One of the best things, and a reason I came to Vancouver, is because it’s in such close proximity to all my favourite outdoor hobbies! If you’re studying at UBC Vancouver, you’ve at least got to ski at Whistler and hike the Chief. There’s so many things to do, and now’s the time to do it!

Vancouver Campus

Do you have any ideas yet on what you’d like to do with your career?

Right now, I’m interested in structural engineering. That may change after my co-op terms as I learn more about all the potential career paths. 

Skills you need to succeed as an engineer

Any advice for students who are considering engineering?

During first year, you’ll realize there are a lot of talented people here. But you may be surprised by how far a good work ethic can take you! 

Even if people seem smarter than you, if you work hard it will definitely pay off in the end.

First year

Two students standing in an outdoor stairwell observing the project site.

Civil Engineering

Civil engineers are in high demand, working for example as project managers or design consultants, across all industrial sectors and government. Focus your creativity and help build tomorrow’s world.

Civil Engineering

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UBC Applied Science students are people who are passionate about their chosen field — architecture, landscape architecture, community and regional planning, engineering and nursing — and those that inspire others by making meaningful contributions to the betterment of society.

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