For Supriya Patel, her graduation this spring marks the summation of a dream. Supriya was drawn to Dalhousie three years ago after reading about its reputation as a research institution.
“When I was reading about Dalhousie, I was really impressed by its research work in robotics and machine learning, and that was what I was really interested in at the time,” she says.
Supriya, who is from Gujarat, India, has now graduated with a master’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Her research project, titled: “Automated Navigation Implementation Using Generalized Computational Graph,” is an impressive body of work that has opened doors for her in the world of computer science and engineering.
What’s particularly amazing about Supriya’s story is that she managed to do all this while making a lasting impact working as a student assistant at Dalhousie Libraries.
While computer engineering and library work may seem unrelated, for Supriya it was a natural fit. “I grew up in a family which preferred reading books together and there were always tons of books around, so I found libraries very comforting,” she says. “I always appreciated library staff and when I saw an opportunity to contribute, I decided to apply.” Supriya was hired for a job in the Killam Library during 2019.
Student assistants are an integral part of Dalhousie Libraries, managing a plethora of tasks. Supriya quickly became an invaluable member of the team. “Initially, I worked in the stacks, which means I collected books from all the floors, sorted them and reshelved them,” she says. “Once in a while I’d help patrons find their books because it can get confusing sometimes."
Challenges and rewards
Her skillset grew from there. “Later on, I was working in the Document Delivery department, sorting books received in the mail to determine if they belonged to Dalhousie or another university.” Soon, Supriya took on the responsibilities of scanning documents requested by patrons, finding electronic journals in databases, shipping books, and more. “My favourite part was getting to understand a small part of how libraries operate and being able to work with an amazing staff,” she says.
Supriya says that while working at the library was incredibly rewarding, it was also very challenging. “Working while studying can be really stressful. There are so many contributing factors, such as making sure you aren’t tired during your morning classes, which can happen if you have late shifts.”
She says the end of term was the most difficult. “You have submissions in all the classes and you have to balance your time because so much depends on those 20 hours of work you need every week and at the same time not wanting to work at all to focus on your studies.”
In the end, however, Supriya sees her time in the Killam Library — and at Dalhousie — as overwhelmingly positive. “I learned so much about working in a large organization where all the departments depend on working harmoniously with each other,” she says. “Also, working in the library requires acute attention to detail. I learned how clear communication was important with the supervisor to avoid mistakes. I learned how to juggle priorities and work on multiple tasks simultaneously.” Supriya believes all these things will help her in her engineering career and is grateful to Dalhousie Libraries for her experience.
“I was very lucky to have a great supervisor, colleagues and a manager who always made sure I was taking breaks and not tiring myself out,” she says. “My classes were always taken into consideration when scheduling my shifts.”
Supriya plans to do a Ph.D eventually, but for now she’s working on an internship as a Java Developer.
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