Q&A with Lily Prendergast

Engineers design things that make the world a better place. I wanted to not just have ideas, but also have the technical background to make those ideas a reality.

Lily Prendergast

Fourth Year Integrated Engineering with Long-Term Co-op


Lily is a student ambassador here to answer your questions. Click here to contact Lily.

What inspired you to choose engineering?

I chose Engineering because I enjoy problem-solving. Engineers design things that solve problems to make the world a better place. I wanted to not just have ideas, but also have the technical background to make those ideas a reality. I actually almost chose an entirely different program and university. I was down to my last few days and I was very undecided between pursuing a technical degree in math and science or following my other interests towards history, music, and language. I knew math and science did not come as easily to me, but I was still drawn to the engineering mindset, in particular design thinking. It turned out really well because with Integrated Engineering I am able to combine the engineering approach with my own interests.

Why did you choose Integrated engineering?

I chose Integrated Engineering because I loved the first-year design course. We were put into teams and over the year we were presented with three problems for which we had to devise an engineering solution. I enjoyed taking a leadership role in my team and managing every aspect ofthe design process from the problem definition to the results. My instructor for the course was, at the time, the director of Integrated Engineering. He told me about the program, and when I expressed an interest he said he thought it would be a really great fit for me. Over the last five years, I have realized more and more just how perfect a fit it is.

Integrated is a small community, and our members have diverse interests and career goals. I love seeing my peers pursue their passions, within and beyond engineering, using the variety of technical knowledge and leadership/innovation skills our degree encompasses. We are able to work closely with each other and our current director to make the most of our experience while continually improving the program for future students.

Why Western Engineering?

I chose Western Engineering because of the feeling I got when I visited Western and toured the Engineering buildings in grade 12. I am a generally anxious person, particularly when it comes to change, and the transition from high school to university was about to be the biggest change I had ever experienced. I found a lot of the university open houses overwhelming and was usually focused on getting in, getting information, and getting out as quickly as possible.

When I visited Western, I felt a lot more relaxed and even enjoyed parts of the day I spent visiting! There is a heavy focus on community and support within Western Engineering, and it made me feel like once I was there I would be surrounded by people who wanted to collaborate, not compete. Now that I am in my final year, I would still say the community is my favourite part of Western Engineering, and I am really glad I made the choice to come here!

Can you talk about your extra-curricular activities at Western?

I have been involved in a lot of extra-curricular activities at different levels throughout my time at Western. I have been a general member of Women in Engineering since first year, and I really enjoy attending the different events they run throughout the year. Getting involved as a general member of a club is a nice way to meet new people and attend interesting events without making a serious time commitment.

I have been involved with Western Engineering Outreach since second year, taking on roles as an ambassador and mentor to prospective students. I also have been the UES year-rep for my discipline in both third and fourth year, attending council meetings to vote on behalf of my peers and keep them informed on what is happening within our faculty. Taking on larger commitment roles such as these is a great way to make connections with other students and faculty and make a noticeable impact on others in the community. I would encourage students to get involved in extra-curricular activities because they can help develop your non-technical skills, deepen your connection to the Western Engineering community, and they are a lot of fun!

How do you manage school-related stress?

The most helpful thing for managing my school-related stress is knowing that I am not alone. Often in engineering, you will find that if you are worried about something, a lot of other people are worried about it too! In first year you will have a cohort of other students who have the exact same schedule as you, and starting in second year you will have classes with the other students in your discipline.

Talking to people that are in the same situation helps remind me that I am surrounded by people I can study with, learn from, and vent to about school. Talking out my worries and having them validated by people I know and trust helps me accept them and make a plan to address them.

What is success to you?

Okay, bear with me on this explanation. I absolutely adore The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy. It’s an incredibly wholesome and surprisingly emotional illustrated book about friendship and how everyone is just doing the best they can. I had a really hard time articulating my definition of success until I discovered the following quote from this book: “What do you think success is?” asked the boy. “To love,” said the mole. 

I thought about this for a long time after reading it and eventually decided I agree. My criteria for success are that I love the work I do, the people I spend my time with, and the things I spend my time doing. I know there will always be the more boring aspects of my work, and people I dislike, and everyday tasks I don’t enjoy, however, I only want to actively invest my energy in things I love. So it’s a little cheesy, but I think that being successful is all about love.