Engineering Fresh Faces: Seshasai Srinivasan

A man sits on a bench outside the W Booth School

Photo by Kareem Baassiri

Welcome to Fresh Faces. In this series, we’re highlighting 43 Engineering faculty members, all hired within the last five years, who are doing interesting and innovative things in the lab and the classroom.

Seshasai Srinivasan is an assistant professor and the program chair of the Software Engineering Technology program in the W Booth School of Engineering Practice and Technology. He joined McMaster in 2013. Here, he shares his thoughts on walking, teaching and Leonardo Da Vinci.

On walking, being in nature and solving tough problems

I go for a walk almost every day – I prefer long, solitary walks. Walking is something that I’ve done from a young age. Even in high school, I would go out for long walks, and before I realized it, I would be a couple of kilometres from my house and have to make my way back.

Walking is when I’m crystallizing my thoughts.

I enjoy being in nature. I lived in Tanzania and Uganda for a couple of years as a child, and got initiated into enjoying nature.

You don’t realize that the solutions to some of the most difficult problems can be easily found in nature. I like to observe everything – curiosity about things and observing the natural world can help give you a new perspective.

I also like sitting outside – the bench right outside the Engineering Technology Building is one of the spots I often sit and ponder.

On engineering as a career

A long time back, my neighbour in Mumbai, a doctor, told me, “God created the world – but it is engineers who move it.”

In addition to doing some fundamental science, I try to do things that are industry-centric – trying to solve things that are relevant right now, something that will affect our society in the next three to four years. In my current project, me and my colleague are developing a device that can be used for roadside drug testing. This is extremely valuable to society right now – and the fact that I’m contributing something positive makes me proud.

On the most influential person in his life

A lot of people have had a lot of influences on my life. Growing up, my parents had a lot of influence on me, my friends have influenced me, my wife has a very strong influence on me.

When it comes to engineering and science, Da Vinci is my model scientist – he was governed strongly by curiosity. Even though he didn’t have a formal education, he created designs and structures that people in his time couldn’t understand. He came up with designs for the first tank, the first flying machine, he conceptualized the idea of a parachute.

On the happiest day of his life

The day I got married was the happiest day of my life – although it wasn’t just that particular day. It was the sequence of events that led up to it, and the sequence of events that have followed. All of that makes me feel like that has been the most crucial moment in my life so far.

On teaching

I always try to have an interesting story or experience to engage my students. When I walk into a lecture, I’m looking to integrate that story along with a bit of humour, and trying to think of the most opportune moment to include it.

I think it’s important to have lighter moments in the classroom so my students don’t feel like they’re drinking from a firehose of information.

On life outside the classroom

I very actively play soccer, so my goal is to become extremely physically fit.

Drawing is another thing that I do very passionately – I sketch a lot. I’ve tried sketching portraits, although I’m not very good at portraits. One recent project was a series of postcards of a single tree in four different seasons – for each season I chose a colour theme and designed the structure of the tree using buttons.

Inside the classroom…

I’m trying to create a transformational learning environment.

Outside the classroom…

I’m engaged in all sorts of activities. Whenever I get the chance, I try to interact with students.

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