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(January 24, 2002, Gazette)

Getting a jump on grad studies
Fast tracking

Jagan Seshadri spends a lot of time working with a team of researchers at C-Core’s Intelligent Systems Lab.

Encouraging students to pursue graduate studies is a challenge for most universities. The process is complicated by lucrative job offers, or students just feeling burned out after years spent completing an undergraduate degree. Memorial’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, however, has thought of an incentive to increase the number of students entering into the master’s of engineering program. The fast track master’s program has been very successful since it began in the fall of 1997.

“The fast track program for master’s students exempts undergraduate students from their last work term,” said Dr. Mahmoud Haddara, associate dean of graduate studies and research. “Instead of working they take two or three graduate level courses. They then go back to finish their undergraduate degree in the winter and continue on with graduate courses in the spring.

“Otherwise, they would be finished in the spring and would have to wait until September to start a graduate program. Taking the fast track route saves them two terms.”

Since the program began in the fall of 1997 it has grown steadily from one student to seven students in 2001. And while the program has increased the number of students who have gone on to graduate studies in engineering, the real test of its success lies with the students.

Jagan Seshadri began the fast track master’s program in the fall of 1999 after hearing about it through his professors.

“Until then I had not given it much thought. The fact is the undergraduate program is very hard and long. Having graduated from high school in 1994 and from university in 2000, you would think that six years ought to be enough,” said Mr. Seshadri. “But the fast track program appealed to me. As I got to the end of my undergraduate degree, all of a sudden I realized I was almost finished this goal and I did not have anything definite lined up. I could have gone into telecommunications, which I did most of my work terms in, but I did not want to limit myself.

“I knew there was more out there and I wanted to try something else. I started to notice, as well, that most of the interesting jobs listed a master’s of engineering degree as preferred.”

Mr. Seshadri went on to say, “The thing that was initially holding me back the most was that I was tired of school. But I did recognize graduate school, in the back of my mind, as an edge. And being able to complete a master’s degree in a shorter period of time was certainly an advantage.”

According to Mr. Seshadri this was just one of many advantages. “I went through undergraduate and did very well. I had good marks and great work terms, but I still felt like I had not tied it all together. I knew a lot of subject areas. I knew if I had a problem in electromagnetics and a problem in microprocessors, I could solve them. But when did the two meet up? And how do you formulate the problem? I felt I was missing this and I wanted to integrate all the things I had learned in undergraduate.”

Having an option such as the fast track master’s program available certainly persuaded Mr. Seshadri to begin a graduate program. He went on to call the fast track program a “brilliant” idea.

“It certainly clinched a lot of people from my class who probably would not have gone on to graduate study had it not been for that program.”