to McGill University,
McGill University's central library in Autumn
McGill University's main entrance in Winter
I was greatly honoured to be given the opportunity to work with a world-renowned professor, Professor Arun S Mujumdar, at McGill University in Montreal for the last five months. Montreal has the edge over other North American cities with the highest number of university students per capita, according to the latest issue of McGill daily.
Our drying group in Chemical Engineering department
with Professor and Mrs Mujumdar
It was indeed an enriching experience in terms of the different academic and research culture coupled with a less rapid life-style. In this short write-up, I will give an introduction to McGill University and then proceed to describe some of the scenic places I have visited during my short stay in Montreal.
McGill is one of the more popular English-based universities in Montreal. Other universities such as Concordia and Laval are French-based. McGill is often considered an international academic hub where one can find students from practically all nations. The reason for its popularity can be attributed to the cheaper tuition fees compared to other North-American universities and the restless and eventful city of Montreal. Also, considering its Nobel Laureate alumni, McGill certainly has a rich history of producing world famous researchers. During my second month of attachment, I visited the radioactive laboratory where Lord Ernest Rutherford did some of his experiments leading to his Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908. It was certainly a moment to be cherished.
My typical day in McGill starts off with the daily discussion with Professor Mujumdar regarding my research work followed by half-a-day of simulation work in my office and then some further discussion with other McGill post-graduate students in different areas of research. Such a research schedule ensures a global understanding of all aspects of engineering work. What I particularly liked about McGill's environment is the homely atmosphere that enveloped every corner of the University. In the Department of Chemical Engineering, every post-graduate student seems to know one another. The working relation between professors and students is analogous to those of close working colleagues. During my short working period with Professor Mujumdar, much work was accomplished in the area of drying. We co-authored two international journal papers which were eventually accepted for publication followed by a book chapter write-up for the upcoming series in development in drying.
According to some people, Montreal is Canada's most romantic metropolis, an island city that seems to favour grace and elegance over order and prosperity; a city full of music and art. It is also a vibrant and beautiful place full of memories and dreams and ceaseless festivals. Montreal is the only French-speaking metropolis in North America and the second-largest French-speaking city in the world, but it is also a tolerant place that over the years has made room for millions of immigrants who speak dozens of other languages.
For a good overview of Montreal, one can head for the lookout at Chalet du Mount Royal. You can drive most of the way or hike all the way up from McGill University. Once at the top of Mount Royal, and if you look directly out, you can see the skyscrapers of downtown Montreal. Just beyond, along the banks of rivers are the stone houses of Vieux-Montreal. Hugging the south shore on the other side of the river are Iles Ste-Helen and Notre-Dame, sites of La Ronde amusement park, the Bioshphere and the Casino de Montreal - popular excursion sites. To the east are Rue St-Denis and Quartier Latin, with rows of French and ethnic restaurants, bistros, designers boutiques, antiques shops and art galleries. Even father east, one can see the flying-saucer-shaped Olympic Stadium with its leaning tower.
An overview of Montreal City from Mount Royal
No excursion to French-speaking Canada is complete without a visit to the exuberant and romantic Quebec City, which is often claimed to have one of the most beautiful natural settings of North America. The trip from Montreal to Quebec City was approximately 6 hours. Due to time constraints, we only managed to spend 2 days in Quebec City. The temperature in Quebec City dropped to an astonishing low of -15 ° C. We devoted one day to the Lower Town, where we found the earliest site of French civilisation in North America, and second day to Upper Town, where more of the later British influence can be seen. On Day 1, we strolled through the narrow streets of Petit-Champlain, visiting the Maison Chevalier and browsing through the many handicraft boutiques. Moving on to Place Royal, we toured the Eglise Notre-Dame-des-Victoires. On Day 2, we took time to view the St. Lawerence River from Terrasse Dufferin and visited the impressive buildings of Upper Town, where 17th and 18th century religious and educational institutions predominate.
The central rail station in Quebec City
during the night
Monumental buildings of Upper Town
in Quebec City
Besides Montreal and Quebec City, there were other beautiful cities such as Toronto (particularly Niagara Falls) and Ottawa which I visited during my attachment. It would probably take another few pages to describe all my travelling adventures. In short, I had an extremely enjoyable experience during my 5 months post-graduate attachment to McGill University and I would strongly encourage any post-graduates or undergraduates to seize the opportunity to have an attachment stint to any renowned overseas university.
Ernest Chua Kian Jon
PhD Research Scholar
Mechanical and Production Engineering,
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
15 January, 2000