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MEGA student group emphasizes community involvement

Being a student is often a tough and busy life. For graduate students in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, that is especially true. Between the long hours spent studying, researching and experimenting, it can be difficult to find time to unwind or connect with other students, faculty and staff in the department. The Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Graduate Student Association (MEGA) can provide such opportunities.

MEGA members volunteered in the kitchen at YMCA of Central Ohio Van Buren ShelterMEGA members volunteered in the kitchen at YMCA of Central Ohio Van Buren Shelter“MEGA exists to advise, assist, support and involve graduate students—socially and academically—in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering,” said President Rajat Saksena.

“We strive to enhance the overall experience of all mechanical, aerospace and nuclear engineering graduate students. MEGA also strives to bring the graduate students, faculty and staff together to help build and foster a more friendly and family-like environment within the department.”

“To that end,” Rajat continues, “MEGA hosts a lot of social events such as Coffee and Bagel Day, Board Game Night, Potluck among many others in which we invite faculty and staff and strongly encourage their participation. These events offer a very informal and laid-back opportunity for the entire MAE community to know one another and build relationships.”

Rajat, a doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering, has been involved with MEGA for three years. This is his first year as president, and he hopes to continue MEGA’s efforts to build a stronger community within the department and between the department and the larger campus and Columbus communities.

Outreach is an emphasis of those initiatives. For example, this past October, MEGA members volunteered in the kitchen at YMCA of Central Ohio Van Buren Shelter. They helped with setting up the dining area, preparing and serving food, and cleaning up afterwards; their efforts embodied the MEGA ethos of giving back to the community.

Project Nature NewsletterTo further community engagement, Rajat has introduced Project Nature as a way for students inside and outside the department to become more involved with nature. Rajat, himself an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist, simply wants to bring people closer to nature and to inspire them to give back to the natural community, especially the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks.

"When living in an urban setting, a connection with nature is mostly missing from our lives. We often try to plan for and make trips to someplace away to find nature, but tend to overlook, and hence, miss out on what we have right in our backyards,” he says.

“The Metro Parks offer a great opportunity to be in the midst of nature right within our city. There are 19 Metro Parks (with a 20th coming up soon) that offer a wide variety of landscapes and opportunities," enthuses Rajat, who is also recipient of the 2019 Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks Volunteer of the Year Award.

Opportunities to get involved with the Metro Parks are numerous, and Rajat outlines those in a monthly Project Nature newsletter and on the Project Nature page. MEGA has also recently launched a monthly Project Nature Lecture Series to educate attendees and connect them with ways to give back to the community.

Whether you’re interested in connecting with other students, faculty and staff in the department, or giving back to the Columbus community, or just want to have some fun, MEGA and Project Nature can provide plenty of opportunities for all. Visit the MEGA website to learn more.

by Jonathon Miles, department communications intern