What do we do when we graduate from an undergraduate school? We either work full-time or we pretend to work; either way, being primarily responsible for every outcome in our lives. The journey that extends from two to four years of our undergraduate studies has a marked effect in shaping the type of professional that we will become in the future. But do we realize its importance?
I don’t know, at-least I am sure that I didn’t at the time (reasons are many). However, the students who did realize its importance were the ones who increased the probable chance of them becoming a better and more ‘industry ready’ employee than people like myself.
Being an engineering graduate for the last three years, I have experienced many facets of the industry, both good and bad. Compiled below are a snapshot of five areas/pieces of advice that I normally outline to juniors and those looking to progress themselves within the industry.
Creating, developing and managing a start-up
I believe every student should try creating and working on a start-up project while being undergraduate. The resultant success or failure is inconsequential, rather the experience alone will assist you in understanding business dynamics and how companies work. Terms like business plans, strategies, profit/loss, financial rations, shares/equity will become part of your lexicon. The benefits of undertaking such activities is limitless. It will give you a deeper understanding of what it takes to run a company and the importance and value of time and money and the correlation between them both.
Volunteering Officer Experience
My second piece of advice is to not underestimate the worth of volunteering experience. When I was in my undergraduate program, I was told to take part in local society/clubs and specifically IEEE student branch activities and programs to widen my experiences throughout my degree. Whilst I found these experiences emotionally beneficial, the leadership skills generated and refined cannot be denied.
Just by involving yourself into your IEEE Student branch, be it in a formal Chair position or even a committee member, such leadership skills are continuously being fostered. Having an understanding of what it takes to be an effective leader and the associated best practices to demonstrate this can have a marked effect at shaping the path of your own career.
Everyone can work, but not everyone is good at communicating
I wish, I could write a whole book on this topic, but already there are many published and available in the market emphasizing the importance of this characteristic. Being good at talking and communicating effectively can make you stand out in front of your office colleagues, even when your job role is purely technical in nature. You might wonder, what makes me a better employee if I am good at talking? – Consider this opportunity, and trust me it is a real time case where I have seen people realizing and accepting this bitter truth.
Let’s say there is a company called “Mango” which produces cellphones and similar products. You are a R&D Engineer or a Product Manager and you, alongside dozens of other team members, are working on this new software/product/project. You all work tirelessly on the project, and you put in extra hours because somehow your supervisor (who was in-fact good at talking), motivated you effectively that now you own this software/product/project and you take a sense of pride and ownership over it. Finally, you along with your team have made it and now the company is considering sending some employees to Silicon Valley where delegates will talk on its features and promote it as much as they can. Here, the one with acceptable technical skills and a great effective communication skills would be preferred over someone who is only technologically savvy. Why? Because at the end, it’s the talking that matters.
Why waste time on polishing your speaking skills after you have finished graduating? These skills should be enriched and developed throughout your education!
Ways to improve your communication skills can include actively participating in IEEE Student branch/Local section events and partaking or joining professional organisations such as Toastmasters etc.
Writing is as important as speaking
When it comes to writing a formal email, or a preparing a project report or writing an application to a client/manager/supervisor, it seems that many talented individuals feel helpless to do so. It’s not that you cannot write it, or you do not know how to write it, it’s all about practice. The more you do the faster you will improve and better yourself at it.
It is often very important that your language skills are of a high standard as little subtleties such as tone and message can often be misconstrued in the written form. Sending vague electronic emails are a typical example in the industry that can lead to potential problems for workers and managers alike.
Internships: As much as you can
Attaining an internship in your Summer or Winter gaps is very important, as it offers you a chance to work and recognize the rules and techniques of being a full professional employee in a national or multi-national organization. Care less about the company and what it does but join it with the aim to feel a corporate responsibility and immerse yourself into the organizational environment. Focus more on learning from an individual rather than company itself.
I have seen students in the past trying to get an internship and not joining-in because the company profile is low or it is not of their interest. What they completely miss out on is the point where they can study human behavior, office politics (surely most of them do have) and working cycle that can open-up new dimensions and can yield thoughts to see avenues that they haven’t seen before in their professional life. Get into internships as much as you can. I completed four internships and every company had a different culture, environment and learnings. I also met some very intellectual people working for the various companies whom I still connect with to this day. The networking opportunities and gateways that are opened up are endless.
Consider your undergraduate time the most valuable phase of your life, where if you indulged into activities and programs that can nurture your personal and professional development, the results and benefits once you graduate are limitless.
Try to foresee your future by investing your time, energy and efforts into something that can grow as an asset for you in future. Don’t just spend your time, invest in it.
Article contributed by Sarang Shaikh, Editor, IEEE Impact
Networking is one of the most powerful and useful acts an individual can undertake to advance their career. Your network can help you build visibility, connect you with influencers, and create new opportunities. However, as professionals who work in technology development and management we often overlook the importance of this attribute. Given that I was born in the 1980’s, I can clearly remember the widespread usage of the internet and some of the basic social functionality that emerged. In the last 5 to 10 years we have been swamped with online portals that offer alternatives to face to face networking such as Linkedin. In today’s article I will dissect networking and why I believe the face to face approach is still the key to success, provide you with six points of advice to hit the ground running and a few useful online sources.
Be strategic about your networking (Image courtesy: http://spotcard.co/)
Networking in simple terms is an information exchange between you and another individual with a focus of establishing relationships with people who can help you achieve a particular goal; including advancing your career.
A networking contact could result in one of the following:
Intimate information on the latest in your field of interest (IEEE technical society is a good example) or information about an organization’s plan to expand operations or release a new product.
Job search advice specific to your field of interest (where the jobs are typically listed).
Tips on your job hunting tools (resume, cover letter and /or design portfolio).
Names of people to contact about possible employment or information.
Follow-up interview and a possible job offer
Who is in my network?
Developing your network is easy because you know more people than you think you know, and if you don’t then you really should get out there and start meeting people. Networking is the linking together of individuals who, through trust and relationship building, become walking, talking advertisements for one another.
Your family, friends, room mates, partners, university academics and staff, alumni, past and present co-workers, neighbours, club and organization and association members, people at the gym, people at the local cafe and neighbourhood store, and people in your sports club.
These people are all part of your current network, professional and personal. Keep an on-going list of the names and contact information of the people in your network. Ask your contacts to introduce you to their contacts and keep expanding your list. Opportunities to network with people arise at any time and any place. Never underestimate an opportunity to make a connection.
Who is in your network? “Start a conversation and see where it leads you to” says Dr. Eddie Custovic
Online vs Offline?
There are a number of social networking sites where you can make great professional contacts, such as LinkedIn and Facebook. You can also use discussion groups such as blogs, newsgroups, and chat rooms to network online. IEEE Collabratec is a fantastic integrated online community where technology professionals can network, collaborate, and create – all in one central hub. This will help you discover the hot issues in your field of interest, post questions, and find out about specific job openings that are not otherwise posted to the general public.
“The digital arena has shown much promise in terms of networking. It is convenient, universally accessible and very quick. The 21st century human is impatient and demands results at the snap of a finger. While online networking is a big part of relationship-building nowadays, it is only one part of relationship/partnership building. Face-to-face interaction still offers a host of real, unique advantages – which you should not brush aside easily. Trust, transparency and momentum behind strong business relationships emerge as a result of sharing a physical presence. Online interaction of whatever format it may be can’t provide this. It can’t simulate the reassuring grip of a confident handshake, or the positive energy of experiences, values, and interests shared face to face. These things can only unfold by interacting in person. Because of that exclusive context, live networking can be a valuable opportunity to help keep you ahead of the game.”
The power of personally connecting and human interaction accelerates relationship building. In 10 minutes I can know more about someone, or they about me, in person than in several months online. However, you must also keep in mind that online and offline complement each other. If I meet you online and strike up an online relationship that has value and interest to me, then taking it offline is going to enhance and progress that relationship. If we meet in person, then staying connected online is going to enhance and progress our relationship until we meet in person again.
Online / Offline networking? Or something in between? (Image courtesy: http://www.wall321.com/)
Another thing worth noting is that the new generation of young professionals has become heavily online dependent and often lack a strong face to face networking approach. It is easy to sit behind the computer and type questions but one must have the confidence to do the same in real life. By ensuring you have the face to face element covered also means that you are one step ahead of the pack!
Get out there, start a conversation and make it happen!
If you haven’t been out and about enough, make some goals this year to reconnect in person in your community, business world or hobbies. Go where you already have commonality and know people. It’s much easier and faster to get connected, get personal and make some new friends, connections and you just might get that job, interview, or new customer. Once you feel comfortable with your ability to strike up a conversation then you may want to consider meetup.com as a way of growing your network.
Want to learn how to network? The IEEE Young Professionals can help.
Here are some strategic tips on how leverage networking to maximise outcomes:
Be strategic about your networking – Strategic networking is more than just socializing and swapping business cards, it is about developing relationships to support your career aspirations. It takes focus and intention to build such a network, but it’s invaluable for your professional development. Identify who you know and who you need to know to help you reach your career goal and build a power network to support your advancement.
The power of diversity – Move out of your comfort zone and identify people who can help your career, not just those people you like and the people who can immediately be of benefit.
Be proactive – Networking is not something that we do and then sit on the shelf. It must be done proactively. Ask yourself this “If you were to lose your job tomorrow are you confident that your current network would be able to help you bounce back and start lining up interviews for new roles?” If the answer is no then It will most likely take you much longer to find a new position. And how can you get information about a hiring manager or new boss if you don’t have a network of people to provide that information? As fantastic as some of job sites are, remember that you are not the only one online looking at job adverts. A majority of jobs don’t make it to the websites and are filled through a powerful network.
Follow up– Follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given. When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them. Respect and honour that and your referrals will grow. It’s often said that networking is where the conversation begins, not ends. If you’ve had a great exchange, ask your conversation partner the best way to stay in touch. Some people like email or phone; others prefer online sites such as LinkedIn. Get in touch within 48 hours of the event to show you’re interested and available, and reference something you discussed, so your contact remembers you.
Volunteer in organizations – A great way to increase your visibility and give back to groups that have helped you. This is one of the first tips that I give to my students and it is often right in front of you.
Be interested, stay focused – The best way to network is to show interest in what others have to say. People will be more likely to trust you because they’ll know it’s not all about you. In this process you will also uncover new information that can lead to favourable outcomes. You don’t know what you don’t know. So what’s the best way to learn more? Step away from your desk and do something, see something, read something or listen to something/someone that has nothing to do with your work. Do something that has nothing to do with what you know.
You network will quickly become a web of intertwined relationships that can be a very powerful tool in advancing your career. In conclusion, don’t underestimate what networking can do for you. Your network is your net worth.
Some useful networking tools for your career:
assessment.com/ – An online career assessment that identifies how one best fits in the workplace
efactor.com/ – An online community and virtual marketplace designed for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs.
It is 9 am Monday morning and for many people it is a day just like every other. However, it is late September and in the southern hemisphere (in my case Australia) it is summer internship application period. During the last two weeks of September I will meet with dozens of students looking to secure one of many highly competitive work experience positions. My inbox is flooded with emails related to CV structure, cover letters, interview advice and if there is sufficient mention of projects/technical content in a job application. What I find in 99% of engineering and technology students is that their key sales point to industry tends be along the lines of “I am a good coder”, “I am a great electronics designer”, “I am an outstanding mechanical engineer”, “I am highly proficient in the use of CAD” and the list goes on. I think by now you get the point. Historically students in STEM careers have ignored the “soft skills”, often brushing them aside to hone in more of the tech crunch. The 21st century engineer can no longer expect to find jobs solely on their ability to solve problems.
“Stand out in the crowd with a well defined set of soft skills” says Dr. Eddie Custovic
In a recent survey 77 percent of employers surveyed by careerbuilder.com said they were seeking candidates with soft skills — and 16 percent of the respondents considered such qualities more crucial than hard skills. Soft skills relate to the way employees relate to and interact with other people. Another study conducted by Millennial Branding said employers ranked placed the most emphasis on: communication skills, a positive attitude and the ability to work in a team, all of which can be labelled soft skills or emotional intelligence. Hard skills, on the other hand, are teachable abilities or skill sets that are easy to quantify, such as a proficiency in a computer programming language. In today’s world employers have an expectancy that graduates will come to an organization already in possession of soft skills. When employees lack these basic soft skills, it can hurt the overall success of the organization.
While there are endless articles on which soft skills matter most, I have taken the liberty of creating a summary of 10 that are crucial:
1. Effectively managing your time and being organised Time management is one of those skills that we often feel we are failing at as students. Late assignments? Missing a class? Forgot to do your preliminary reading before a laboratory session? During your studies you will be introduced to the concept of project management which contains an element of time management. Your undergraduate degree should serve as a testing ground to hone in on your time management skills. 8 semesters of studies will allow you to experiment with different ways of keeping track of time. Some of you prefer keeping notes in a diary and others will use a digital diary/calendar to keep track of tasks. It is important that have time management and organizational skills that stand out. There is not much room to missing meetings and project deadlines when out in industry. Missing project deadlines can often have grave consequences for the organization you work for.
2. Working under pressure. Many of you have pulled an “all-nighter” during your undergraduate studies. Drinking red bull or coffee to give you that extra few hours of concentration need to complete an assignment or project. While learning good time management skills can help you minimize the frequency of these taxing situations, they are likely to occur from time to time in a demanding job. This is particularly true if you are wanting to make an impact early in your career.While “working smarter, not harder” is a term often thrown around, evidence shows that putting in the extra hours from time to time early in your career delivers results. You will not go unnoticed. It might come as a surprise that the ability to focus all your energy on something is a skill you often utilize in the workforce.
3. Being dependable. Employers value workers they can rely on to get the job done. There’s nothing better than an employee who is on time every time and is highly reliable. Your managers will be under enormous pressure to deliver outcomes. Having employees who can take on tasks with confidence can alleviate some of the pressure from management.
4. Being creative and innovative. Whether you are an IT professional or biomedical engineer, creativity is what sparks change in the workplace. Finding a unique solution and thinking outside of the box is what standout graduates do. During interviews you will most likely face questions such as “Please tell us about a time when you were assigned a tasks and how you dealt with it”. This is the time to demonstrate your creative thinking and ability to provide innovative/non conventional problem solving. The challenges we face in industry often require solutions that fall outside of what we normally expect to see. A great example of a large scale creative solution is the construction of the Burj-Khalifa tower in Dubai. To ensure the concrete of the mega structure cured properly, ice blocks were thrown into concrete and poured over night.
5. Voicing opinions while being open to feedback. Employees who are confident in their ideas but open to feedback can play influential roles in a workplace. During a brainstorming session, for example, such an employee would not only share ideas but also challenge others’ by asking thoughtful questions. This can create a stimulating discussion and even spark innovation. As a graduate you should ask yourself the following questions; Are you open to training and advice? If someone senior in the organization made a comment about your work (feedback), how would you react (defensive or acknowledge it)? Accepting negative feedback in a graceful manner speaks volumes about an individual and their character.
6. Solving problems. Especially for fast-paced organizations, strong employees can think critically and effectively solve problems. Are you generally a resourceful person? Even if you don’t have all the answers, would you be able to look for them? Know what to do? People who take ownership and are ready to own up their mistakes are highly regarded by the organisation. A typical question you will face during an interview in this area is: “Please provide an example of a time when you had to overcome a challenge in the workplace”. This will help a hiring manager gauge the candidate’s ability to solve problems, be resourceful and face obstacles at work.
7. Coaching and mentoring of co-workers. According to Millennial Branding report, 92 percent of employers value strong teamwork skills. Strong employees are individuals willing to help co-workers and coach them along the way. Let’s say a new employee has been hired and added to a group project. The new employee probably doesn’t have a clue about what’s going on yet. In this scenario, an employee who’s been on the team a while should take the new worker under his wing and coach the person through the new project.
8. Taking initiative. An employee demonstrates initiative by coming up with an idea and putting it into action. For example, an employee might develop an idea for social-media marketing campaign that will build awareness for the organization. Don’t always wait to be assigned a task, if you can see a problem take initiative to see how you can contribute in solving it.
9. Being flexible and focused. Deadlines and projects can change at a moment’s notice. Employees need to quickly adapt while remaining focused on meeting deadlines. For example, an employee may have just received an assignment and deadlines for the week. But Wednesday arrives and the manager decides everything needs to be shifted to arrive a day earlier. A flexible employee would be able to quickly adapt to these changes and focus on projects with top priority.
10. Developing new work processes. Employees with the ability to analyze work processes and discover new ways to complete them efficiently are valuable to employers. Not only does this save employers time, but it can also add to the bottom line.
Have other soft skills that you believe should be in this list? Let us know.
Article contributed by Dr. Eddie Custovic, Editor-in-Chief, IMPACT by IEEE Young Professionals
You have your necessary engineering tertiary qualification; check!
You are a member of various engineering related organisations; check!
You are actively partaking in numerous co-curricular activities; check!
……. however you are struggling to ‘land’ that first job, relevant work experience and job ready skills.
This is the problem facing many current graduates from all over the world. I was not immune to what seems to be a common scenario in the industry today. I graduated from a leading university in Melbourne, Australia with an engineering degree, majoring in civil engineering. Although the construction and design industry has been vibrant over the last few years, I always found it difficult to obtain the exact skill employers apparently require; that being “experience”.
Every summer during my university vacation throughout my degree, I would try to arrange some form of relevant work experience while away from my studies. The work ranged from obtaining formal roles with local councils to enrolling in appropriate software CAD classes (for upskilling), in my spare time. Basically, I made it my mission to ensure that no employer at any interview could suggest that I supposedly “did not have enough experience”. While it is not entirely imperative that the work experience be in your exact field of study, I believe that it is important that all upcoming graduates attempt to immerse themselves in areas and experiences that allow for opportunities to build upon their transferable leadership, teamwork and self-responsibility skills.
University specific job sites and job boards are often a very good resource to use in order to find relevant opportunities for experience. Generic job sites often are ill-equipped to cater for the requirements often facing newly graduated and current engineering students. The following list highlights a few engineering specific job sites from around the world that should be visited by engineers, graduates, students and employers alike.
While not exclusive to showcasing engineering jobs, this job site should be visited by job seekers and those looking for experience. Region dependant, this site provides extra services such as resume guidance and help, together with career resources and insightful interview technique tips.
Hosted by the Institution of Engineering and Technology, this site allows prospective employees to search for available positions based on the engineering and technology disciplines. The site is based in the United Kingdom, with the jobs primarily focussed toward this region. The site also allows for job seekers to connect with recruiters in the area who have an intimate knowledge of the specific working landscape.
EngineerJobs is one of the leading engineering job sites visited in the world. Attracting nearly 400,000 monthly visitors to the site, its users can filter search results based on a combination of criteria including engineering discipline and home city. There are approximately 300,000 jobs advertised on this site at any one time. This site is a great place for all prospective seekers from North America to begin their search. EngineerJobs also allows applicants to upload a copy of their resume for easy access from any potential recruiters.
Hosted by Webjobz, this website performs a search on available engineering specific job availabilities across Australia. The search function allows a search by job title, location and even company name. Although this site slightly favours the mechanical engineering discipline, the search results often provide a diverse mix of available jobs, with varying entry requirements.
EuroEngineeringJobs, as the name suggests, caters to prospective job searchers looking for roles in predominantly Europe. The built-in search function allows for job advertisements to be filtered by country or job field. In addition, job advertisements can be further sorted by the level of experience required; namely 0-2 years’ experience, 3-4 years’ experience, 5+ years’ experience and at the manager and executive level. An applicant’s CV and resume can also be uploaded into the job website and a job alert is provided when matched with criteria set by the user.
Engineering.com (don’t you love the name?) provides a search portal for various job listings, predominately located in the United States, Canada and even the United Arab Emirates. Focussing mainly on automotive and aerospace engineering, this job site sorts the job advertisements based on discipline. In addition, job seekers can access valuable resources on career tips and industry information.
The IEEE Job site provides access to a searchable database of jobs available in the electrical, electronic, engineering, computing and other IEEE related fields. The site also provides updates to the many upcoming career fairs and provides a dedicated job seeker tool to assist in building a proficient resume and CV. Internship and entry level jobs are separated on the site, allowing for more appropriate results to be displayed.
While not as widely known as some of the other tech industry job sites online, TechCareers.com offers nearly 200,000 tech and engineering jobs, as well as the ability to create your own career portfolio to attract interested businesses and recruiters.
Plenty of great job opportunities for those interested in electrical engineering. This site contains electronic and electrical engineering jobs ranging from microcontroller engineering, power distribution engineering to project management.
How do we use bacteria that can eat and breathe electricity using renewable resources to produce something we can use? This could potentially be very powerful here in Australia as we have abundance of land, sun and wind but in areas that aren’t populated” says Dr Ashley Franks.
Dr. Ashley Franks is a researcher at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.
Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs) use bacteria to convert organic waste material into electrical energy. This environmentally-friendly process produces electricity without the combustion of fossil fuels. MFCs have various practical applications such as in breweries, domestic wastewater treatment, desalination plants, hydrogen production, remote sensing, and pollution remediation, and they can be used as a remote power source. Widespread use of MFCs in these areas can take our waste products and transform them into energy.
Today I am going to tell you about my big fat idea and I’ll be talking to you about bacteria that can eat and breathe electricity. When we talk about electricity with bacteria what we’re actually talking about is the way they can gain energy. And while the idea might seem sort of quite interesting and unusual it all goes back to the way that all living organisms can gain energy. When we gain energy, we have a nice meat pie, have some tomato sauce, we actually eat this, it’s organic food, but what we do is we breathe oxygen so we take in our organics, it has energy, we transfer energy to oxygen and form carbon dioxide. Without the oxygen we don’t really do very well, we end up dying and we call this respiration. But there’s lots of bacteria all around our world that can actually keep on surviving and respiring without oxygen. So what these bacteria are able to do is use what we call alternate electronic acceptors. Oxygen for us accepts our electrons, these bacteria can use different things.
One of the interesting bacterias that my lab is interested in is ones … is bacteria that can actually breathe metals. So this is a lump of iron oxide, solid bit of rust. It is metal but the bacteria you see sitting on the surface in green are actually breathing the metal. So they’re eating the organics, eating their pie but they’re able to breathe the metal. The difference here is that the metal is a big lump of something outside itself. So to breathe you’d have to go up and touch it, it can’t breathe in oxygen like we do, it has to go and touch the actual lump of metal and give up electricity this way. So the reason why this is interesting to us is because you can actually gather that electricity the bacteria is breathing if you give it an electrode. If you put an electrode into this system this bacteria then will breathe the electrons onto the electrode and you can gather this as an electrical current.
Ashley Franks’ eyes light up – a current flows from pond muck
So the interesting thing here is not only meat pies but all different types of organics from around the world these bacteria can actually use. And it’s actually very beneficial because once you put it into a system like a system what we call here is a microbial fuel cell, this can actually operate like a battery. So bacteria, eating, breathing, they’re electricity, we can actually put into a system and it works together to actually form a small amount of electricity. And these bacteria you can find anywhere in the world. Usually they’re under the ground where there’s no oxygen, there’s lots of them and they use lots of different organics which they can break down and provide us with electricity. People quite often think that this is really exciting ‘cause now we can actually save our electricity problems around the world ‘cause we can just get bacteria to eat our garbage and produce it. But our problem is is that bacteria are only small and they only make a small amount of electricity. So the current and voltage output that they do is quite small but it can still have some very, very beneficial processes.
The US Navy uses these under … in the soil in the actual ocean bottom and having one that’s about 1m3 of these sort of electrodes, these have a big one, is they’re about the same as 30 diesel batteries per year. While it’s not very much electricity in power what this allows you to do is actually leave a device somewhere while the bacteria are happily eating and they keep on eating for a long, long, long time, you never have to go back and change batteries. So if you wanted to actually put sensors in a rainforest, if you wanted to put sensors in a river, if you wanted to power a small device somewhere you could put this into the actual mud and the bacteria will quite happily breathe their electricity onto your electrode and power your small device. And for us in our research lab one of our most interesting points that we like to look at is these bacteria that are breathing the electrode. So these bacteria get a wide different mix, these are just some pictures of some different types but what the bacteria do is they actually go up to this electrode, they touch the electrode and able to breathe it. So this would be like if you and me were able to hold hands across a room with no oxygen and someone can touch a wall and we all can breathe together. And the bacteria are able to do this because they produce this specialised pillon and cytochromes.
Chambered BMFC being deployed in Yaquina Bay Oregon in August 2011. The chamber is pushed into the sediment and in this semi-enclosed state, the inside volume goes anaerobic. Carbon brushes positioned inside the chamber serve as the BMFC anode. Another circular carbon brush, tied to the rope harness above the chamber, serves as the cathode. The BMFC is wired to a power management system inside the black acoustic modem that floats above the BMFC. Power from the BMFC maintains the modem and a chemical sensor (optode) interfaced with the modem. BMFCs of this design typically produce ~10 mW continuously. This can sustain longterm sensor measurements in the ocean and can power periodic data transmissions from the acoustic modem. We think this technology is ideal for extending sensor networks throughout the deep ocean becuase it eliminates the need for replacing instrument batteries. Image: Oregon State University
So these are like little appendages that come out from the bacteria. They have these proteins called cytochromes that can transfer electrons and they’re able to pass electrons from inside themselves to outside themselves. So these bacteria are now becoming like a material, a biological material that can actually transfer electrons over a long distance, a relative long distance. It’s only 60 micrometres which is very small but for bacteria that’s 60 bacteria. So if 60 of us could actually stand together and hold hands it would be actually like that, transferring the electrons all that way. And this is interesting especially when you’re moving into the field of bioelectronics ‘cause these bacteria can grow an electrical biofilm that can transfer electrons better than biopolymers that people are trying to produce artificially now.
But the other aspects where this is actually quite interesting is that the bacteria themselves can be used in areas such as oil spills where the problem is is you run out of oxygen. An example that people have quite often heard of is the Deep Well Horizon spill. It was in the ocean, it was underwater but oil is organics, bacteria can eat organics but the bacteria themselves out all the oxygen in that environment and they ran out of things to breathe. But knowing about these bacteria that can breathe an electrode, if we put an electrode into that actual environment we give them something more that they can breathe, they can keep on eating this oil and they can keep on breathing and we can get rid of this a lot faster. And these electrodes are just carbon, are just like a HB pencil, that’s all they are. So you put that in, the bacteria can breathe the electricity. You might have a red flashing light but you might not care about the electricity anymore ‘cause you can get rid of the oil spill.
Operational on the ocean floor
And another area that people are quite … don’t think about very often ‘cause when you flush your toilet you don’t want to, is wastewater treatment. So wastewater treatment when we do this now we use a lot of oxygen so this requires big tanks, you need to stir that tank, you need to pump oxygen through so the bacteria can eat all that organic waste, get rid of it so we don’t contaminate our rivers. But with these electric bacteria we don’t need that stirring, we don’t need that pumping and that’s just a huge saving in electrical power. So in some places like the US alone 7% of their electricity goes to treating wastewater so if you used electric bacteria instead you don’t really care about making energy but you’re saving a lot of energy.
But what I’d mentioned earlier on before is that we at the moment, this is bacteria eating … oh sorry, this is bacteria breathing electricity but now what I’ll mention is that bacteria can also eat electricity. Because what I was saying is that from the meat pie which is energy that went out to the electrode, this is a transfer of electricity or transfer of energy. But there are some bacteria we have found in the environment as well that can actually take that energy from the electrode in the form of electrons and what they can do is use that as their food source and their power source to do a whole bunch of processes. A lot of people think this sounds really quite strange, a bit like The Matrix but what you probably most commonly know this as is photosynthesis. So a plant gets sunlight in its chlorophyll and produces electrons that power fixing carbon dioxide and make us our organics. But we have found is that these bacteria, they don’t have photosynthesis but they can take electrons from an electrode so rather than needing sunlight now what we can do is actually feed them electricity and get them to produce some type of biological or organic material. And as I mentioned before something like petroleum is an organic material.
So these bacteria, we can feed electricity which we can produce from renewable resources and get them to produce something that we can use. And this is very important in somewhere like Australia because we have lots of places where we can have a lot of wind or we have wonderful amounts of sun but our problem is is that these areas are too far from our population, from Melbourne or Sydney or anywhere where people live to get high power electricity lines. So we can’t transfer electricity over long distances. But what we could do is we could make electricity here with solar panels, feed that to bacteria who could convert it into something like butanol and have that transferred to Melbourne where we can use it as we need. And the big advantage here as well is that we’re not taking away from somebody’s food supply so the land is not being used for food but it’s got a lot of sunlight, we can catch that and we can feed it to bacteria and have something useful. So this is a new type of biofuel and the organics in that biofuel all come from carbon dioxide, so for greenhouse gases that becomes neutral and all we need to do is feed these bacteria electricity.
But one of the things that perplexed us to begin with was that you have bacteria that can breathe electricity and bacteria that can eat electricity and if you think about in the environment there’s not many places where you’re actually having electricity being produced all the time. But the cue there that we found that was interesting is that well you’ve got one that breathes and then one that eats and if you look at these bacteria together that’s quite often you’ll find them together. So they form what we call these syntrophic relationships where they’ll work together to actually carry out some type of process and normally it is somewhere where there’s no other electronic acceptor so there’s no iron, there’s no oxygen, you’ll have two bacteria that will work together and one will breathe electricity and the other one will eat the electricity that’s coming out of it so they get this little syntrophic relationship. What the problem that is quite with this is that the by-product at the very end is methane. So this methane is a great house gas, it’s not very good for the environment but there’s a lot of bacteria in the environment which are actually able to operate together, feed each other electricity to get their food and produce methane.
So it’s interesting ‘cause our research, we’re able to show that in these environments this is actually was what happening. So this is where these bacteria that we actually found to do these amazing things have evolved over millions of years and they’ve already set up their own electrical networks, they’ve already been working together through electricity to interact. And you might be thinking well this is quite interesting but what does it mean to us in the big run? And the thing is if we understand this process then we know how to sort of try and drive these microbes to do things differently because in Victoria one of our big methane producers is dairy cattle. Everybody likes milk, everybody likes cheese but these cattle have bacteria in their stomach that produce most of the methane that they’re able to burp out and gives us a lot of methane problems. But looking at the bacterial communities in the cow what we find is that some of them are these bacteria that are feeding each other electricity. And because they’re actually feeding each other electricity they produce a lot of the methane. So if we know how to give the cow the right type of food so you select not the electric bacteria but if you give them some vitamin supplements to select other bacteria you won’t get this interaction through electricity, you won’t get your methane and we won’t get our greenhouse gases.
And further to that if you actually want more methane then what you can do is actually promote the bacteria because there’s a lot of industrial processes to get rid of waste that convert it in these big vats using bacteria to produce methane. So if you have a lot of organics, if you have some type of food processing plant, if you have something that has a lot of waste, that waste you don’t want to put into our riverstream ‘cause you’re going to harm the environment, what you can do is actually promote these bacteria, get their electrical connections better and they’ll actually improve at getting rid of your waste, giving you methane which you can use as an energy source.
So in summary what we’re able to do with our lab is … in my lab … is able to take bacteria that can breathe metals and end up with ways to stop cows from actually giving out methane.
This interview has transcribed directly from a podcast thanks to La Trobe University and the IEEE Student Branch. The article has been edited by Dr. Eddie Custovic, Editor-in-Chief.
Today’s article is brought to us by Nivas Ravichandran. Nivas is a recent graduate of B.E Electronics and Communication Engineering and is associated with Frilp as the Growth Specialist. He has proved to be an active IEEE Volunteer from 2010 and has organised more than a 100+ events under IEEE. He also holds responsibilities like Electronics Coordination Committee Member for IEEE Region 10 and the IEEE India Internships / Entrepreneurship Adhoc Sub Committee Member.
Mr. Nivas Ravichandran
For quiet some time, I have been emphasizing the usage of a LinkedIn Profile to students and friends. LinkedIn is a social networking website used for professional networking. It is equally important to know ways to improve your LinkedIn profile.
1. Update your LinkedIn profile regularly
Having an updated LinkedIn profile is equal to having an updated Resume. Keep reminders to update your profile on a weekly basis or plan to update after every significant event to add content to your profile. The amount of importance you emphasize on your profile is equivalent to the importance you place on your professional life.
2. Add all work and volunteer experience details
Add all work and volunteer experience details. Do not be bothered if it was a small role or a big role, ensure that you mention it with appropriate details. How long have you been working, what was the title of your position, and the responsibilities of your position. These details will add value to your future employers who wish to know what areas you have worked under.
3. Add Photos or Links to support your Experience
Text is not enough to to describe your experience. You must support the experience with photos or links which exhibit the key achievements in your role. It could be a photo of you working on a project or presenting in front of an audience. While describing it, write it from the 3rd person’s view rather than describing it as “I presented on the topic”. The photo or link could add credibility to your experience.
4. Obtain meaningful recommendations
When you add experiences, do get recommendations from your employers or colleagues that worked alongside you. The recommendations add credibility and value to how effective were you in the role you were in. You could also ask the recommender to mention certain key achievements which you wish your future employers to see.
5. Upload presentations to Slideshare and connect
This may be applicable to those of you who make a lot of presentations. Upload your presentations to Slideshare and connect your profile with the LinkedIn profile. Slideshare is a presentation hosting service which will allow your upload your presentations and provide it for public viewing. The presentations will help you to attract professionals with similar ideas and thoughts. You could be judged by the quality of presentations you upload.
Today’s story is about a group of talented IEEE Young Professionals from the Technical College of Kirkuk (Iraq), who, amidst all the instability, invested their attention to developing future leaders. IEEE Senior Member Hussein Al-Bayati along with the Member Development Officer Ahmad Alaiady and the Deputy Chairman of Iraq Sections Dr. Sattar Sadkhan delivered an inspirational and interactive lecture on ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’.
IEEE Senior member Hussein Al-Bayati delivering the lecture
Although motivation for Young Professionals around the world to tackle global problems is not lacking, they are not always equipped with the knowledge they need. They must take initiative in developing the skills and attributes to succeed in life. This was the intent behind organizing a lecture on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
It is commendable, something most of us may never fully comprehend, that the IEEE Young Professionals team in Iraq is striving to produce future leaders, better leaders to lead their nation towards a conflict free country. The lecture was based on the famous Dr. Stephen Covey’s book – The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Dr. Stephen Covey is a well-known author who has inspired millions around the world to lead a life of principles. His message for leading a meaningful and successful life is woven in the 7 habits of highly effective people. As David Starr Jordon, the Founding President of Stanford University, states in the very first lines of the book that there is no real excellence in all this world which can be separated from right living. And that is how the author sets out to attempt to change our deepest paradigms.
Dr. Stephen Covey
“Most people’s lives run on auto-pilot and there is no self-awareness about their daily habits. This results in the absence of a plan for life, and that they do not get the opportunity to lead their lives. Most people’s lives are affected by external factors like the environment, community, family and friends” says Hussein Al-Bayati.
HABIT 1: Be proactive – Because we are humans, we have the ability to see ourselves, our attitudes and behaviours as though we were someone else. This ability called ‘self-awareness’ has helped us advance as a race in the most significant ways. As long as we are self-aware, we can see the consequences of our words and actions and say and do the right things, we can choose. In the words of the author, our basic nature is to act and not be acted upon. Each of the 6 habits depends on the ability of being proactive. It assists in creating a balance between P(Production) and PC (Production Capacity).
HABIT 2: Start with the end in mind – The most fundamental application of this habit is to imagine the end of your life as a reference against which all life’s experience will be marked. This helps to significantly contribute daily to our lives. To start with the end in mind also means clearly knowing the destination for without that knowledge, one is lost. We either design our lives or we operate in the default mode. The most effective way to start the end in mind is to develop a personal mission statement. In essence, habit 1 lets you be the creator and habit 2 is your final creation.
HABIT 3: Put first things first – Contrary to belief, the third habit points that the key is not to prioritize what’s on schedule, but to schedule your priorities. The first step towards developing habit 3 is to make a list of roles that you play, say, in a week. Once the roles are defined, goals need to be defined and then each goal must be translated into a task. Prioritizing activities even before knowing if they will help achieve your personal mission is disastrous as you might prioritize and achieve goals which you never needed. Using a computer metaphor, habit 1 says “You are the program”, habit 2 says “Write the program” and habit 3 says “Run the program”.
HABIT 4: Think Win-Win – Win-Win is a mindset which constantly seeks to mutual benefit for all parties involved. In the words of the author, win-win sees life as a cooperative, not a competitive arena. Win-Win is a paradigm based on the fundamental principle that there is enough for everyone in this world. There are three character traits essential to the win-win paradigm which is Integrity, Maturity and the Abundance mentality.
HABIT 5: Seek First to Understand and then to be understood – Trying to understand other people’s points of views is very important as it assists us in being empathetic towards them. Not all emotions can be heard in words and hence trying to first understand other people gives us the reference we need to make them understand our point of view. This is a powerful habit of interdependence.
HABIT 6: Synergize – The exercise of all the above habits help in the habit of synergy. In the words of the author, Synergy is the essence of Principle centred leadership. It catalyses, unifies and unleashes the greatest power in people. The definition of synergy is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. If you plant two plants close together, their roots will combine and make the soil fertile so as to benefit both the plants. The whole is better than its parts or one plus one equals three or more.
HABIT 7: Sharpen the Saw – Habit 7 is the principle of balanced self-renewal. In the words of the author, habit 7 is taking the time to sharpen the saw instead of wasting time and energy sawing with an unsharpened saw. It’s enhancing the greatest asset we have – us. We need to replenish our body, our soul, and our minds to ensure we work effectively. Daily exercises for the physical body, nourishment for the soul by doing things we love and our minds by self-analysing daily can be powerful tools to sharpen the saw.
The lecture on the 7 habits of highly effective people saw a very good turnout which is just proof of the direction in which positive minded IEEE Young Professionals in Iraq are moving towards.
Lastly, the IEEE GOLDRush team would like to congratulate the IEEE Young Professionals team in Iraq for organizing some outstanding events amidst such unrest. We are proud to present this article to the world in the hope that Iraq can be seen in new light, in the light of hope and courage and a strong willingness to create better future leaders.
Article edited by Sneha Kangralkar, Assistant Editor, GOLDRush
It is with much excitement that we bring an IEEE GOLDRush exclusive interview with the founder of IEEE Academic, Mr. Rui Costa.
Mr Rui Costa delivering the concept of IEEE Academic in 2013. Several years later and IEEE Academic is growing at a rapid rate.
How did you come up with the concept for IEEE Academic?
The IEEE Academic concept started when a group of students in one of the universities in Portugal understood that, despite all the available online contents, most of them failed to prepare students for their classes and examinations. The problems were that the majority of the videos were English based and establishing a relation between what was being watched and what was being taught in classes was very difficult. That was due not only to the fact that the teaching language was different but also the technical jargon was sometimes hard to compare. We then had the idea of inviting a few academics from our university to create video modules about the most difficult topics and make those available in an online platform so that our community could watch and use those videos in their studies for free. This quickly became a big success and that was the very beginning of what today know as IEEE Academic, a project were students and academics work together to create community-relevant video modules in multiple languages all over the world.
IEEE Academic Poland website
What is the vision for IEEE Academic and how do you and your team plan to achieve it?
The goal of IEEE Academic is to become a fully sustainable project that is a global reference for multi-lingual online educational content based on multimedia. By creating a vast library of high-quality contents in multiple languages, students all over the world will recognise IEEE Academic as the go-to place for the videos created in their language. The way we are working to achieve that goal is by capturing the efforts of many volunteers and academics all over the world, that in a distributed fashion create video modules for their communities and make those available using the global platform of IEEE Academic.
IEEE Academic teaching algorithms
What are some of the biggest achievement of the program to date?
At IEEE Academic we dont like to isolate individual achievements yet focus on the overall impact of our program. Our achievements are measured through positive and encouraging student feedback from around the globe. Students from many countries thank us and all the volunteers for the effort that is put into making online educational video modules available for free, which enhance their academic achievements. Every time a new university or a new country joins the program and launches a new video tutorial a new IEEE Academic milestone is reached. As we grow our community of content producers and enthusiastic learners, new and amazing achievements will start to stand out.
Tell us a little about the IEEE Academic team, a little about the volunteers, their careers, residing country and so on.
IEEE Academic is composed by a core-team of 5 volunteers from students, to researchers, professors and people working in the industry. These volunteers are very organised and plan well ahead the next steps of the project to ensure that quality content is kept flowing. A team of ambassadors organize and foster the growth of the project in many countries by working closely with the volunteers in various universities. We have ambassadors and project support scattered all over the world including; Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey, Greece, India, Portugal, Colombia, Tunisia, Brasil and many more, a truly global team!
IEEE Academic on your mobile phone
Tell us about the next big thing in regards to IEEE Academic
We have much planned for the remainder of 2015. IEEE Academic will make available more innovative video modules that will approach and teach various topics using more creative techniques. Also, an improvement in the quality of the website along with some exciting key-partnerships to make IEEE Academic a more global and interesting platform for online education.
Tell us about the most memorable moment while you have been involved with IEEE Academic.
The most memorable moment with IEEE Academic was when I received the first email from a student sending his gratitude to everyone involved in the project, for creating video modules that actually helped him reach academic success in a course he was trying to pass for several semesters. The excitement did not stem from the fact it was the first email, but because it made me understand that with some effort and dedication to this project we could positively impact the lives of many. This was more than enough to fuel the IEEE Academic team.
IEEE Academic Pakistan
Can you provide us with any facts, figures and statistics in regards to IEEE Academic?
As of today, IEEE Academic has published more than 380 video modules in 6 languages. We have 16 ambassadors from 16 countries working to make more videos available. The website received more than 90 000 hits from over 32 500 unique users and IEEE Academic video modules have been watched more than 102 000 times (equivalent of 230 days of continuous video viewing).
Who is Rui Costa?
Rui Costa is a MSc. Network and Communications Engineering graduate from Instituto Superior Técnico, Portugal. Rui Costa has a research focus on Vehicular Networks and Intelligent Transportation Systems which was developed as part of his Masters thesis titled He is currently developing cutting-edge systems and technologies to build up vehicular-network enhanced cities as Senior Systems Engineer at Veniam Works. Rui Costa is the founder and coordinator of IEEE Academic, international non-for-profit educational project, based on online multimedia resources developed in close collaboration with several universities to deliver free, high quality contents, in the local languages.
Rui Costa, Founder of IEEE Academic
He is an experienced and creative presenter, having led several presentations to different targets on several topics, such as vehicular networks, team management/motivation, entrepreneurship and usage of technologies within education. Rui Costa was awarded the Larry K Wilson Student Activities Award in Region 8 for his outstanding contributions
Interview conducted by Sarang Shaikh, Senior Assistant Editor, GOLDRush
Article edited by Dr. Eddie Custovic, Editor In Chief, GOLDRush
The Young Professionals of Poland had a very successful 2014 which they hope will be the backbone of another big year ahead.
The affinity group was responsible for organising the IEEE Region 8 Student & Young Professional Congress which was held in Krakow from 6th – 10th of August 2014. The participants of the congress were students, graduate students and young professionals from universities of Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
“The aim of the Congress was to exchange ideas and experiences among young scientists representing broad fields of science related to electronics and electrical engineering, establishing international cooperation between young engineers, as well as to help students in choosing a career path.” says Jacek Kołodziej, the YP Chair of Poland.
Key presenters and topics:
Zbigniew Kąkol – Vice-‐Rector AGH -‐ University of Science and Technology
Jacek Guliński – Under-‐Secretary of State at the Ministry of Science and Higher Education − Andrzej Jajszczyk -‐ Director of the National Science Centre
Leszek Grabarczyk – Deputy Director of the National Centre for Research and Development
Martin Bastiaans – IEEE Region 8 Director − Ryszard Jachowicz -‐ IEEE Poland Section Chair
Rafal Sliz – Region 8 Young Professionals Coordinator
Pablo Herrero – Vice-‐Chair, Student Activities (OpCom)
One of many workshops
The official launch of the Congress took place at the Wawel Castle courtyard. The Opening Ceremony gathered Congress participants including IEEE authorities, local government officials and invited guests.
Plenary sessions formed the core focus of the Congress. They were conducted by IEEE representatives and focused on topics of students and young scientists and their role in the organization of the IEEE, career opportunities, successes and future in IEEE. Discussion panels were held along with sessions including president elect debate.
Interaction with Industry
Organizing of such a congress was a great challenge, mainly logistically, but thanks to the passion and drive of local Students and YP’s, this meeting as a huge success. This event had a significant impact of the support for the scientific, educational, and professional activities of IEEE organization and spreading of its ideas.
Article contributed by Jacek Kołodziej, the YP Chair of Poland.
School teaches you the essentials of your profession. But what about those unspoken details one needs to pay attention to when entering into the professional world? What are small things one should know when transitioning to the corporate world? The IEEE Young Professionals Toronto team organized the Professional Development Series to answer just that. The team hosted a series of three workshops to address the challenges that arise when introduced to a new working environment and to educate participants on three matters that play a significant role in the working life that are never taught in university. All three workshops were held at the University of Toronto on consecutive Mondays in September, and successfully gathered 70 people who participated in one or more of the events.
Up until the point where we are finished with school and in the work force, we have not yet faced the necessity of dressing in a specific manner that is considered “appropriate.” In acknowledgement of this fact, the IEEE Young Professionals Toronto team welcomed two personal fashion stylists, Kamilla and Nora, for the first workshop named “Dress to Impress.” The two ladies presented all that a young professional should know about how to dress in a corporate environment in order to project the right image. What is considered to be “business formal?” What is defined as “business casual?” What is appropriate for the business environment and what is an ultimate faux pas? By the end of the evening, not only were our participants style connoisseurs, but they also had the opportunity to network and mingle with each other.
Just a week later the team brought in a tasty buffet dinner for the second session titled “Dining Etiquette!” When in a corporate or even an advanced academic environment, occasions often arise where we’re invited to business dinners or conference lunches, all of which are situations that require eating in public and performing it in style. And what better way is there to learn how to hold your fork and knife properly, than to enjoy a delicious meal while you’re at it? Osman, our guest speaker, was more than happy to show to us how many things indeed we did not know about the dining status quo. By the end of the evening, the participants were well fed and enlightened on the best practices of public dining and also got to know a few more things about their fellow diners as they had to share with everyone one thing they learned about the people sitting at the same table.
And last but not least, the team offered participants a networking 101 with plenty of tips and tricks on how to effectively expand your network and build significant and lasting human relationships on a personal and professional level. Our amazing guest speaker, David, addressed networking as both an art and a science, and shared some great insight and advice on how to make the most of our relationships with people. His enthusiasm about people and on how interesting we all are was a true inspiration for everyone and motivated us to keep meeting more. And of course, at the end of the presentation, the participants had the opportunity to do just that.
Overall, the Professional Development Series was a success. The IEEE Young Professionals Toronto team received great feedback and comments from participants encouraging us to continue the good work by organizing more useful events in the future as well as giving us excellent food for thought on event ideas that would be of interest to them. We’re all very excited with this success and look forward to having everybody back for bigger and better events to come. Stay tuned!