Breathing in the fresh air, Becky Otton ‘20 stands surrounded by trees in a British Columbian forest. Believe it or not, this is not just a fun hike for Becky – it’s also her classroom!
A third-year student at the University of British Columbia, Becky studies geological engineering with a minor in commerce. “British Columbia really is the best place to study geology,” Becky says. “It’s the perfect place to study sediment, rocks and geological formations.” That’s only part of the reason why she chose the west coast for her studies, though. “I love the outdoors and love to ski, so I wanted to go somewhere in Canada with easy access to skiing,” she explains. “I also wanted to meet new people and expand my circle of friends.”
She enjoyed her time at Greenwood; standout experiences included playing on the senior volleyball teams (both girls’ and boys’) and learning from the diverse offering of business courses. Her experience studying business in high school prompted her to choose commerce as her minor. Becky had a lot of exposure to engineering from her family – her father and sister both studied engineering– and that piqued her interest in pursuing a career in engineering.
Beginning a new chapter in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic may have been difficult, but Becky saw the silver lining. While the change from smaller, intimate class sizes in high school to large university class sizes of 300 students can be jarring for some, Becky thought that online classes actually made the transition easier. “I formed a lot of connections in my first year because we all helped each other out,” Becky remembers.
Becky chose her engineering specialization in her second year. “Geological engineering allows me to do more fieldwork and I really enjoy being outdoors,” she says. Currently, she is in her co-op year which means she is getting hands-on experience at co-op placements. Becky also applied for a few internships in engineering consulting to try out different options and get a better sense of what she would like to do. “I’m interested in trying out other opportunities to see what kind of work best suits me,” Becky says.
Becky conducts test on rocks at her co-op placement.
In the morning, Becky arrives at her co-op placement and meets with her manager to touch base and assess what rock samples still need to be tested. After the meeting, Becky and the other co-op student go to the cutting and coring room, where they’ll prepare samples to be tested in specialized machines. Some clients ask to test the strength of the rocks on a particular site in order to assess how strong the foundation would be for a bridge or for a mine. Becky goes on to write reports about the results once she’s done testing in the lab. While lab work can be fun, Becky is excited to work more closely with the engineers on consulting projects in the second half of the co-op term.
Beyond the lab, Becky often goes skiing with friends and enjoys the easy access to amazing slopes. She also plays recreational volleyball and is a part of a design team with Engineers Without Borders
. Her team is optimizing the design of eco-stoves that replace the need for open fire cooking for communities in rural Guatemala. Engineers Without Borders help to provide the design teams with assistance to conduct testing and create prototypes. With their stove design now in the testing phase, Becky is busy trying to coordinate with her team on how they can transport their design to Guatemala.
Life on the west coast has afforded Becky many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.
“Don’t be afraid to branch out and go where you want after you graduate,” Becky advises current students. “If you want to go away for school, even if it’s to another country, take the leap. I have friends who are international students and they came all the way from Europe or from Asia and they love it. You have to consider what’s going to make you