Two brothers who grew up on a dairy farm in Nova Scotia have earned the Governor General’s Medal and the University Medal. Brendan MacDonell, 24, and his younger brother Ryan, 21, are graduating respectively with a Bachelor of Engineering degree in software and a Bachelor of Science honours degree, majoring in chemistry.
Brendan started his studies in the fall of 2009 after taking a gap year between high school and post-secondary education and Ryan followed the next year. Later, Brendan completed a 12-month work term in the United States, giving Ryan the opportunity to catch up.
“When I started looking for a university, I knew I enjoyed software development and that I wanted to earn an engineering degree,” says Brendan, who was a co-op student and did all of his work terms as part of that program. “What attracted me most to Carleton was how its software engineering program was structured. Carleton offers software engineering courses starting in the first semester, whereas most Bachelor of Engineering programs don’t offer them until second or third year.
“Of course,” adds Brendan, “I won’t deny the $16,000 entrance scholarship may have been a factor.”
Ryan, who was not available for an interview while he is in China, applied to several universities. The fact he ended up at Carleton, according to Brendan, “was more of a happy accident than a deliberate plan.”
Brendan, who started programming when he was 13 years old, is moving to Silicon Valley, in California, to do software development work for E la Carte. “I see myself staying in the software field for the foreseeable future,” he says.
Ryan will pursue a doctorate degree in theoretical chemistry at the University of Ottawa. Currently, he is studying Chinese language and culture at Nanjing Aeronautics and Astronautics University in China. Next month, he will work as a mentor at the Explore Summer English Immersion Program at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
“Given the difference in climate – they don’t know the words ‘humidex’ or ‘wind chill (in California),’” notes Brendan, “I’d say I got the better part of the bargain.”
Brendan admits to being “pleasantly surprised” to earning the Governor-General’s medal.
“Given the workload in the final semester of the engineering program – it’s all been a blur of studying and projects for me.”