Kate Burnham, BASc '19, Geological Engineering

"Seeing new geologic wonders always inspires me to learn more about their technical mechanics and the engineering implications.”

Kate Burnham

Kate Burnham

  • Degree: Bachelor of Applied Science
  • Grad year: 2019
  • Program: Geological Engineering
  • Campus: Vancouver

I got involved early and often when I joined UBC Engineering. I’m graduating from geological engineering and am the outgoing Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS) President — two designations that I would have never considered ‘me’ before UBC. By getting involved with the engineering community, I met a ton of great people and opened my eyes to the field of geological engineering. As a result of joining EUS First Year Council, photographing our events, racing a concrete toboggan, and directing the engineering orientation week festivities… I eventually became president. It’s been a delight to lead the society and try to make the community welcoming for all. I take so much pride in not only all the hard work the EUS does running E-Week, the Career Fair, the Eatery, the ESC and so much more, but also the unrivaled spirit of engineering.

What has made your time at UBC the most memorable?

My most memorable times at UBC have been outside the walls of a traditional classroom. From the three-week limited cell-service field school to Wreck Beach labs, I’ve gained a much better appreciation for my field and a deeper sense of self. All my efforts volunteering with the EUS have provided lessons, stories and friendships that I will hold dear for the rest of my life.

What have you learned in engineering that is most valuable?

The most valuable thing I’ve learned is how to identify problems and find practical and action-oriented solutions. I’ve learned lots of technical facts and background information, but usually a Google search can tell me the things I don’t know or might forget. What’s been valuable is figuring out how to synthesize all the information I have about a problem and apply my technical expertise to find the best possible solution for any given situation.

What has been your most memorable/valuable non-academic experience studying engineering at UBC?

What’s really made my experience with UBC special has been the ability to get involved with the engineering community. I’ve been part of many different groups including my department, student team and the EUS. Being elected EUS President and representing all UBC engineering students was a humbling experience that has taught me more than any one given course ever could. I’m very appreciative that I got the chance to lead the society and serve our students.

What advice would you give a student considering engineering?

Talk to professionals or students in a variety of engineering fields and learn about their experiences! There are so many different types of engineers whose careers and technical expertise all look extremely different. Learn about the variety of disciplines people study so that you can find the right program to set yourself up for the career you want while getting an education you can be passionate about.

Where do you find your inspiration?

It’s easy to be inspired as a geological engineer by surrounding yourself in the natural world: going out and hiking through mountain ranges and asking questions about how an area was formed, or what could have made that rock move always sparks my curiosity. Seeing new geologic wonders always inspires me to learn more about their technical mechanics and the engineering implications.

What are your plans for the future?

Once I’m back from some ‘obligatory’ post-graduation travel, I start work with Teck — a past co-op employer of mine. I’ll be working as a geotechnical engineer in training at their Cardinal River Operations steelmaking coal mine. It will be a new site and a new town (Hinton, Alberta) for me and I’m looking forward to taking it on as my next big adventure.

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