Student Success Stories - Timothy McGrath
I chose UMaine because it’s one of the best schools in the country for mechanical engineering, and it’s still close enough to home to spend time with my family and friends from Bangor, Orono and Old Town.
How would you describe the academic atmosphere at UMaine?
I would describe the academic atmosphere at UMaine as very professional but down to earth at the same time. There are professors who wear a full suit and tie to class every day, and there are others who walk in with a baseball cap. But they all seem really easygoing and actually want to help students.
Have you worked closely with a mentor, professor or role model who has made your UMaine experience better, and if so, who and how?
So many of my professors have made a big impact in one way or another, but one stands out. Nicholas Giudice takes the cake when it comes to enthusiasm. He is a professor, a mentor, and a role model to me because he is excited about what he does, loves what he does, and gets other people excited about what he does every day. Maybe that just comes with the territory for him – he is the head of UMaine’s Virtual Environments and Multimodal Interaction (VEMI) lab, after all, which is where I work.
Have you had an experience at UMaine that has changed or shaped the way you see the world?
My experience in the VEMI lab has definitely changed the way I see the world, and how I see myself. A couple of years ago I applied for a job as a virtual reality programmer in the lab. At the time I was working as a salesperson for Circuit City so to me, the idea of working as programmer sounded awesome. When I had a job interview with Dr. Giudice, I was just totally blunt with him and said something like, “This lab is the coolest thing since sliced bread.” I guess he liked my enthusiasm because I’ve been happily employed there for about two years now.
Have you participated in any internships or co-ops related to your major? Tell us about them and how your experience in the classroom helped prepare you:
I took part in a fellowship sponsored by the Maine Space Grant Consortium, which was also easy to get excited about. I applied for a summer internship through Vince Caccese, one of the mechanical engineering professors at UMaine, and I got a position at the Remote Structural Shape Monitoring Laboratory (RSSML). I had fun there because it involved a lot of materials testing – basically, breaking stuff – which is one of the classes you take as a mechanical engineering student. There was a lot going on there, so one thing that helped me out was learning to ask questions about anything and everything.
What is the most interesting, engaging or helpful class you’ve taken at UMaine?
The most interesting class I’ve taken is called Introduction to Nano-scale Engineering. It was a class about the design behind really tiny things, such as the technology behind computer processors, the chemistry behind washing dishes, and other cool stuff that I had never really given much thought to before.
Have you gained any hands-on or real-world experience through your coursework? If so, tell us about it:
I gained a lot of research experience in a class called Building Virtual Worlds with Dr. Giudice. One of the requirements of the course was to research something new involving virtual reality. Doing this kind of research was one of the hardest things I’ve done so far, but also one of the most rewarding.
What are UMaine students like?
UMaine students are just all around helpful. People say this a lot, but one of the things I like most about UMaine is that people do small things to help each other out, whether it be holding a door open for someone on the way to class or answering a homework question.
What surprised you about UMaine?
The size. This place is huge! One thing Mainers like to do is to measure distances in time on the road instead of miles. The same thing goes for UMaine: How far is it from one end of campus to the other? ‘Bout a 15 – 20 minute walk.
Describe UMaine in one word.
What do you do outside of class?
I like to hang out with my friends and family, look up tabs for alternative rock songs, and watch movies with my girlfriend.
Favorite place on campus?
Class of 1944 Hall, because you can hear music coming from there nearly any time, day or night.
Favorite place off campus?
Paddy Murphy’s in Bangor.
How’s the food at UMaine? What’s your favorite thing to eat on campus?
The food is awesome. I’m a big fan of the french fries at the grill in the Union. There’s usually a long line for them right around noon. In fact, they’ve recently ranked No. 1 in size and flavor in a kind of unofficial study done by the VEMI lab manager Rick Corey and several other taste testers, myself included.
What is your favorite UMaine tradition?
Hardcore UMaine Black Bear fans camping outside Alfond Arena before a hockey game.
What is your most memorable UMaine moment?
Learning to cheer for the Black Bears at the first UMaine hockey game I went to.
What do you hope to do after graduation and how has UMaine helped you reach those goals?
I hope to go into running computer simulations for stress testing or fluid dynamics, or go back to graduate school for engineering or computer science. UMaine has helped give me the computer experience and the background knowledge in mechanical engineering that will help me out with either way I choose.
What was your first year like?
My first year was filled with things like overindulging at the dining commons, doing laundry at my parents’ house, and annoying my neighbors with over-amplified power chords from an old guitar and tiny amp in my dorm room.
What is your favorite memory of living on campus?
Bringing in outside friends and family in for a guest meal at the dining commons.
What is there to do in Orono, Maine?
Free movies at the Donald P. Corbett building or the Bangor Room at the Union, performances at Class of 1944 Hall or the Collins Center for the Arts. You can pretty much find something to do any time just by walking around campus.
What difference has UMaine made in your life?
UMaine has been an awesome academic experience, and has taught me that anything you can get excited about, you can do.
What advice do you have for incoming students?
Go for balance. Sure, your homework is important, but so are your job and your family and just having fun. Make getting your degree something you do for yourself and for those who are close to you. A lot of good advice about school and homework comes from your professors, and they’re not just pulling your leg, I promise.