Student Jobs Jumpstarting Careers

Research experience with remote sensing technology opened doors for Luke Krznaric ‘21 and Sarah Melhem ‘22.

By Lindy Yang ‘22

Alumni Luke Krznaric ’21 and Sarah Melhem ’22 both landed jobs immediately after graduating from Mohawk College. Not only were they both graduates of the Civil Engineering Technology Advanced Diploma program, they also shared a key student experience that set them above the crowd—both having worked at Mohawk College’s Unmanned Remote Sensing Innovation Centre (URSIC).

Luke, who completed both the Construction Engineering Technician ’19 and Civil Engineering Technology ’21 programs, describes URSIC as an organization where they use remote sensing technology like drones or ground penetrating radar to create innovation.

Professor Richard Borger ’05, a faculty lead at URSIC, says the centre engages students with industry partners by offering students opportunities to “run with research projects [almost] entirely on their own.” Working in applied research involves what Richard describes as an iterative approach. He says, “It’s not always success on the first go. It’s often a case of, let’s see what progress we have made at the end of day one. Let’s figure out how we can tweak our processes and refine from there.”

During his time with URSIC, Luke’s team performed drone surveys to measure land areas affected by invasive species. The process helped Luke develop key skills such as setting up and flying drones and processing data using software—skills he continues to use in his work after graduation.

Luke took to the work at URSIC “like a fish to water,” according to Richard. “He had an ability to take a task and run with it from start to finish with very little direction, only reaching out for help when he needed it.”

Shortly before graduation, Luke interviewed for a job with a specific skill set. Through his work with URSIC, Luke had developed proficiency with drones, 360 cameras, and the LIDAR system—checking off the exact three boxes the employer was looking for. Luke says, “It could not have been better. They needed someone right away and I was available right away.” Two weeks after graduation, Luke headed out west to start working.

Luke says the whole URSIC program was “amazing” and everyone was very supportive throughout his time with the centre. He appreciates how exposure to various remote sensing technologies gave him a greater understanding of what could be done with these technologies.

Sarah also shared all the positive experiences she had with URSIC.

Sarah’s mom, a civil engineer, inspired Sarah to follow in her footsteps. Sarah loved visiting her mom’s workplace and watching things being built from scratch. “From my childhood, I knew I wanted to be a civil engineer,” Sarah says. “I want to do that type of work because I love my freedom. I love driving from site to site, exploring how stuff is built.”

Sarah started a civil engineering degree in Syria but had to move part way through because of war. The Civil Engineering Technology program at Mohawk allowed her to continue her education. After Program Coordinator, Rocco Carbone, showed Sarah the number of graduates being hired she knew this was the place for her. “This is a place where I can have a career in the future,” she says.

Sarah first learned about URSIC through a LinkedIn post. She initially reached out to Richard asking if she could get involved, but he had no opportunities available at that point in the semester. When Sarah ran into Richard in the hallway, she spoke with him again and her strong interest led him to say, “If you want to join the team, be at our team meeting tomorrow at 11 o’clock.”

Sarah showed up to the meeting and Richard offered her a contract for the last six weeks of the semester. Sarah felt grateful for the opportunity – both from a financial perspective and for the learning opportunities and mentorship offered through URSIC.

Richard describes Sarah as one of his favourite recent hires. She was completely engaged and excited to be part of the team, always asking questions and welcomed a challenge. In the six weeks Sarah was with URSIC, she was able to accelerate her learning. “Her learning curve wasn’t a curve, it was basically a line going straight up,” he says.

Near the end of her contract, Richard recommended Sarah to a local engineering firm where she interviewed and landed a job as a civil designer. She started working there less than three weeks after she finished her studies at Mohawk.

Sarah says she wouldn’t be where she is today without Richard’s mentorship and support. Likewise, Luke has positive memories of the people at URSIC and continues to keep in touch with them. Regarding URSIC, Luke says “It’s the thing I look back on my college experience with the most fondness. It’s the thing I’m most proud of doing in college.”

 

Learn more about the Unmanned Remote Sensing Innovation Centre within IDEAWORKS at Mohawk College.

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