Erich MacLean

Meet Erich MacLean:

Headshot of person with blonde hair, smiling, wearing a blue and black plaid shirt.

About Erich

Erich MacLean is a 4th year Computer Engineering student at #UofG. He discovered the DRiVE (Driving Research in Virtual Environments) lab by participating in a research study. Following the study, he reached out and got involved in lab meetings, and was later awarded a USRA NSERC grant to work at the lab full time in the summer. He now works part time as the Lab Technician.

Erich never thought he would end up doing the work he is doing, let alone making an impact and collaborating with researchers on campus. He shares details about his roles and responsibilities, how the work in this lab has contributed to his personal, academic, and career goals, his advice for other students, what Experiential Learning means to him, and more. Watch this video to see Erich’s work in action.

Are you still working at the DRiVE lab? What are your roles and responsibilities at the Driving Research in Virtual Environments (DRiVE) Lab?

“I am still working in the Driving Research in Virtual Environments (DRiVE) lab! I worked a full-time position in the lab during the summer, and now I am employed part time as the Lab Technician. My main roles and responsibilities include collaborating with researchers in various fields to create, design and then program simulations for research experiments. I work with the simulation software and do programming in Python to develop new tools to streamline data collection and processing as well. I also help with cleaning, maintaining, and upgrading components and manuals in the lab.”

How does your role play into a bigger picture for the research your lab is working towards?

“While I do not perform the research itself and instead collaborate with those who do, I help develop resources, tools, and software that researchers can use to make their research more efficient, consistent, and streamlined. Our lab personnel require the lab systems to be quick and easy-to-use in order to gather their data from running studies, and the collaboration I get to be a part of allows me to learn how to develop systems targeted toward their work, and the researchers get new and better tools to help with their work.”

Has this role been worth the time you put into it? Why or why not?

“This role has definitely been worth the time I have put in. The work that I am doing has a clear and positive impact on the researchers I work with and I get to see the performance and results of my work in real-time as they perform their studies using the tools I’ve developed for them. I do my work so that others can benefit and it has been made clear that they have experienced the benefits intended.”

How have things that you’ve learned so far in your role at the DRiVE lab contributed to other aspects of your life?

“The role in the DRiVE lab is an opportunity in itself that has brought many other contributions to the pursuit of my personal, academic and career goals. It has brought several opportunities to learn new skills in programming and computer development, new research being done in fields of psychology, as well as collaboration and teamwork skills. I have been able to work directly with scholars in engineering and psychology, as well as with professionals in the industry of computer hardware, and driving simulation and research. I have had opportunities to present my work through student speaking engagements and interviews as well which have helped me to promote the DRiVE lab while simultaneously developing my speaking skills. I believe that all of these skills provide me with long lasting benefits that help me in achieving my goals.”

Did you ever think that you would be doing the work you’re doing with the driving simulator?

“Absolutely not. I decided not to go into a co-op program at the University of Guelph because I was hoping to get a job during my degree program that was in the field of computer engineering. In my third year, I discovered the DRiVE lab participating in a research study within the lab. Intrigued by the lab, I was determined to volunteer within the lab. I got in touch and attended lab meetings for the duration of the semester. In the summer, I was awarded a USRA NSERC grant to be employed full time that summer, where I did a majority of my work developing simulations and software tools. I was then offered a part-time position within the lab in order to continue my work with the lab. Before all of this though, I had no idea that this is where any of my determination would have led me, and I am grateful it did.”

Would you recommend on-campus research to other students? Why or why not?

“I would highly recommend on-campus research to other students. Being able to work and collaborate with professionals, as well as consistently learning and growing is incredibly valuable whether one ends up in research or a different career path. The resources that the University offers for completing research is advanced and continuously improving. The research is the cutting edge of new technological development, which is an amazing opportunity to be a part of.”

What would your advice be to other U of G students who might be interested in following a similar career path as you?

“My advice is that the amount of energy invested is directly proportional to success. Nothing comes without hard work. If you are passionate about a particular subject, reach out to professors, read books to expand your knowledge, attend career fairs to make new connections. The work that is put in will come back with great reward.”

What’s next for you?

“I am set to graduate in the W23 semester, after which I am hoping to finish up my work in the lab over the summer and help with larger lab upgrades. After this, I would like to work for a few months, and travel to see the world. Then I will either consider further education or finding a career that I feel sustaining.”

Lastly, what does "Experiential Learning" mean to you?

“To me, ‘Experiential Learning’ is the idea that you learn by doing. Whether it is attending lectures, or working in a lab, the best learning is done by participating and experiencing the work, the field, and the world as a whole. Everyone learns different, but there is always an interactive component, something that one has to experience in their own way in order to get the most benefit from learning.”

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

“More information about the DRiVE lab and our personnel can be found here:”