Levi Bieber, BASc '18, School of Engineering
"I believe that inspiration is what piques ones interest into starting their degree, but it is self-discipline that ensures that one will get the most out of their education."
Hello! My name is Levi Bieber (some relation to Justin). I was born and raised in the City of Vernon, BC, which is about a half-hour drive from Kelowna. Beginning my post-secondary education first in Vernon and then in Kelowna (at the Okanagan College – one year each), I transferred to the University of British Columbia in 2015 and am now graduating with my BASc in electrical engineering. Last summer, I began research with Dr. Wang, who is a pioneer in the world of HVDC (high voltage direct current – the direction that long-distance power transmission research is heading); with him being both my mentor and advisor, I hope to be able to produce useful papers that can benefit him as well as other researchers in the future.
Why did you choose engineering?
There are few disciplines in life that can make a direct impact on the lives of people. In recent years, I have discovered that I attain the most satisfaction from helping people and doing my part for the planet. Thus, upon careful consideration, about five years ago I decided that if I want to make a change in the world, practically speaking, it makes sense to do so through engineering. My brain is not that of an artist’s — it is logical. As such, I believe I am better cut out for engineering. Specifically, of the three main engineering disciplines offered at UBCO (civil, mechanical and electrical), electrical stood out to me the most. Now that I have gathered experience as a post-secondary student for the last five years, I have gotten to experience many of the different facets of research UBCO has to offer. This being said, the research that seems the most interesting to me is that of designing high-efficiency power transmission systems; to me this is a no-lose way that I can do my small part in benefiting society.
Tell me about your experience in engineering. What have you learned that is most valuable?
Having started my education at the Okanagan College (I spent the first two years of my post-secondary career at Okanagan College obtaining my Associate’s of Science Degree), I use my experience there as something of a benchmark to compare my experience at UBCO. Coming from Okanagan College (where 40 students was considered a large class), it was a bit of a shock when I first attended a lecture hall containing over 300 students. That being said, I have nothing but good things to say about the School of Engineering. Although class sizes are oftentimes large, never once did I feel like “just another number”; the professors at UBCO genuinely care about lecturing to students as well as developing relationships. This desire to connect with students is what causes UBCO to have the constructive atmosphere that it does. Okanagan College served as a welcomed bridge between high school and university; although the course material was considerably more difficult, the class sizes were small enough to make me feel comfortable approaching the teacher when I couldn’t quite grasp a concept. Contrary to Okanagan College, at UBCO, there were many opportunities to get involved with research. Deciding that research would be a positive step towards my future, I was very excited when Dr. Wang announced that he was searching for some students to aid in his research. I believe that being able to do research with Dr. Wang over the last couple of years has provided me with a leg up when it comes to both furthering my education (as I will be doing a Master’s) and applying myself to the job market.
What advice would you give a student considering engineering?
Depending on the aspirations of the individual, engineering obviously may not be the right choice. For instance, I have some friends that are fantastic writers and painters, but they barely squeaked through grade 10 mathematics. That being said, if one has the aptitude for problem solving and applying theoretical principles, then engineering is a solid decision that paves the way for a lucrative future. Expect that there will be a heavy course load (it is engineering, after all), and don’t forget to set aside time for socializing. For me, socializing didn’t need to be a daily thing; I was quite content to put my head down and work away on projects or assignments. However, every now and again, it’s necessary to go out and have some fun in order to break up the monotony. By doing this, obtaining an engineering degree will be, although challenging, a satisfying endeavour that instills very marketable skills to the individual.
How do you feel a degree in engineering has benefited you compared to a different field of study?
When I began to consider post-secondary education, I asked myself which field of study would be the best fit for me. I have never been a very creative person (at least not in an artistic way), but I have always had a good intuition and interest into how the world works, both physically and socially. Psychology was an option when I was considering post-secondary school; however, after reading various books on different psychology-based subjects, I decided that I was more interested in the subject matter itself — not in how to apply the knowledge. Since physics and math were always my favourite subjects in high school, I knew deep down that I would be pursuing a future that involved the application of physics. Engineering (and more specifically, electrical engineering) fit the bill for what I could see myself doing in the next decades. Electrical engineering was a particularly interesting option to me since, compared to other disciplines of engineering, it is quite math-heavy and theoretical. There is a lot to learn and a lot of fundamental concepts that take time to fully comprehend (although the mathematics behind the concepts can be understood somewhat quickly, the concepts may seem foreign at first). In this way, I feel that completing my electrical engineering degree has provided me with a deeper understanding of physics and the universe as a whole; for this, I am happy I chose electrical engineering.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Inspiration can be an ambiguous term. I believe that inspiration is what piques ones interest into starting their degree, but it is self-discipline that ensures that one will get the most out of their education. Inspiration and motivation wax and wane all the time and, for many, this truth results in the incompletion of their degree. Due to the unsteady nature of inspiration, it is important to maintain ones mental and physical needs throughout the course of their degree.
There were times in my university career where inspiration waned. During these times, I found it important to look towards those who I respect. For example, oftentimes I found inspiration in considering Dr. Liwei Wang. His work ethic is second-to-none and, although he is almost always busy and is father to five children, he always makes times for his students and maintains a level head. I believe this quality is something any honest person strives towards.
In addition, maintaining a social life (be it visiting with my girlfriend, friends or family) was critical in keeping my motivation levels high. Without my friends, university wouldn’t have been nearly as enriching of an experience. Having friends in the same program as me kept me accountable for the work I needed to finish. Since I am naturally competitive (perhaps both a curse and a blessing), I found that having friends in the same program as me forced me to strive to perform my best; knowing that they were going through the same hardships that I was going through really eased the mental load.
What are your plans for the future?
At this point, I will be going on to do my master’s with Dr. Wang. Research will likely involve a collaboration with Montreal-based real-time simulator company, OPAL-RT (the world-leader in real-time simulation software/hardware); as such, I am ecstatic to begin doing research that will benefit both Dr. Wang as well as OPAL-RT.
Upon completion of my master’s, I would like to work in the R&D sector, designing new and more efficient ways of transmitting power over long distances.