A career that stems from STEM

Why Engineering - A group of students with their creation

You’ve probably heard from teachers, parents and others that majoring in a STEM-related field is a great choice if you want a well-paying and rewarding career.

But if you’re not sure just where you fit within the subjects of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), don’t despair! They are all incredibly interesting areas, and it can be hard to know which specific field is best for you. And while you’ve studied science and math in high school, you’re less likely to have taken courses in engineering or technology, making these subjects less familiar.

STEM university programs

Just what are some STEM university programs? If you’re interested in studying STEM at UBC Vancouver or UBC Okanagan, you have a lot of options. You could choose a degree in science or math, or you could pursue computer science or engineering.

Engineering or Science? Choose the best path

Engineering or Science? What's the best path for you?

Your high school education has likely included lots of science courses – physics, chemistry and biology. But you’ve probably not taken any engineering classes. That can make it hard to know whether engineering or science is the better choice for your undergraduate degree

Engineering or Science?

A bridge that connects

Engineering is an interesting choice because it is a bridge that connects science, technology and math. Rather than thinking about these subjects independently, engineers bring them together and apply their interdisciplinary knowledge of science, technology and math to develop innovative solutions to real-world problems.

So while a chemist might research new chemical compounds, a chemical engineer might use their knowledge of chemistry to develop a more sustainable and energy-efficient process for a specific application.Similarly, whereas a software programmer might write and debug code, a computer engineer might use their understanding of technology development to integrate the software into the operating system for a better user experience.

Why engineering is the most versatile degree?

A first year focus on STEM

The foundation year at UBC Engineering could probably be renamed “STEM year”. You’ll take courses in science (physics and chemistry), math, technology (an introduction to coding) and engineering (two engineering classes where you will learn to think like an engineer).

Students during Engineering First Week

What courses do you need to get into engineering?

If you’re thinking about studying engineering, it’s good to know what the prerequisites are so that you can meet the admissions criteria. Taking the high school courses you’ll need will enable you to keep all your options open when it comes time to apply to university.

What courses to take to get into engineering?

Keep an open mind about your options

After first year, you’ll be ready to make an informed choice about which of the 14 engineering specializations on offer at UBC best aligns with your interests in skills. And while you might have an idea of what kind of engineering you want to pursue,keep an open mind! Some students do, in fact, end up choosing their initial specialization. But the majority end up discovering their passion over the course of first year, and it’s not always in the area they assumed.

Student Experience Arya Subramanyam

Co-op Chronicles: Thriving in Computer Engineering

Unlike some other schools, UBC Engineering allows students to explore various engineering specializations before you commit to one of them in second year. I welcomed this opportunity to explore my interests and identify what I was passionate about!

Thriving in Computer Engineering

The ”E” in STEM brings it all together

If you’re not quite sure what STEM area is best for you, engineering can be a way of getting the best of everything. When you choose engineering, you are basically bringing together all of STEM into one.

Here’s an example. Biomedical Engineering professor Dr. Carolina Tropini is engineering new microbes to treat chronic diseases – research that brings together biology, math, technology and engineering. It makes sense that she describes engineering as a “Renaissance approach to science” where you pull from all sorts of disciplines to solve problems.

Here’s another example. Civil Engineering professor Dr. Sumi Siddiqua says she was initially interested in science-based research, but then realized she could have a far-reaching impact by “focusing on engineering applications to explore how modifying soil quality and properties can generate various benefits.”

She adds: "Although my work is grounded in microbiology, my perspective as an engineer is different from that of a scientist.”

Both these professors are using their knowledge of science, math and technology to develop engineering solutions that are improving lives and making our communities safer and healthier.


Carolina Tropini - Microbiology

Dr. Carolina Tropini is using her expertise to engineer new microbes and tools to treat the chronic diseases, allergies and immune disorders that have resulted from our lifestyle changes over the past 100 years. 

Read more - Carolina Tropini

Soil Micro-organisms

Sumi Siddiqua - Soil Micro-organisms

Dr. Sumi Siddiqua's research on soil micro-organisms is paving the way for new geomaterials with significantly lower carbon dioxide emissions than traditional materials used in the construction industry.

Read more - Sumi Siddiqua

UBC Engineering students also show how the “e” in STEM is the connecting glue. In 2023, Integrated Engineering students did a third-year capstone project that drew on their knowledge of biology, machine learning, electronics and more to design a system beekeepers can use to monitor their hives and prevent colony death from mite infestations. The resulting solar energy powered system – known as beezy – collects data on temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide and includes a machine learning system that identifies mite-infected bees so beekeepers can take action to save their colonies before it’s too late

IGEN Student Project

beezy: Remotely monitoring beehives to detect and prevent infestations

The beezy project is a testament to accessible, autonomous technology, meticulously monitoring living conditions within a beehive, allowing beekeepers to maintain healthy colonies of Western honeybees.

Read more about this project

The takeaway

If you’re interested in STEM education, consider engineering. It enables you to bring together knowledge from technology, science and math and apply it to make the world a better place.

Find out more about UBC Engineering and how it brings together the best of STEM!

An engineering student at the Design and Innovation day exhibit

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Design & Innovation Day, Kai Jacobson

Start Your Future at UBC Engineering

You may not know yet if you’re interested in leading an organization. But one thing is certain. Starting your future at UBC Engineering will give you a well-balanced education and sought-after skills – the first step and the foundation for a challenging and rewarding career.

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