NEWS!! > Survival Guide

Survival Guide

Welcome to Atmospheric Science! Wondering what options and opportunities are out there once you complete your degree? Wondering what opportunities and resources you have available while completing your degree? Just read on.

What is my degree good for?
The American Meteorological Society has a great career guide explaining many paths you can take with a degree in atmospheric science – yes, there’s more than just forecasting!

Academic opportunities
There are opportunities to do research as an undergraduate both during the school year and in the summer. The most traditional way is to seek outside funding from sources like NSERC, however some profs are able (have grants) and willing (have projects) to take on undergraduates where the prof him/herself funds the research. In either case you should choose a prof/project first, and then discuss your options for funding with the prof once they’ve agreed to take you on. And remember that it’s preferable for the student to get their own funding. For lots more info check out

Part of the list of complementary classes needed for the atoc degree is preceeded by the statement "6-9 credits ordinarily selected from" for the major and "3-6 credits ordinarily selected from..." for honours. The word "ordinarily" basically means that if you want to take a class not on the complementary list that you think is worth counting for your atmospheric science degree, you can speak to the undergraduate advisor about being able to count it.

At McGill you're allowed to take one class pass/fail per semester, provided you don't need the class for a major or minor. This means you don't get a mark on your transcript for it, only Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory, and it doesn't count in your GPA.

Resources for atmospheric science students
Atmospheric science undergrads are entitled to a locker in Burnside basement if they want one. Students need to provide their own locks. If you’d like a locker let us know at

We have three lounges for undergrads in Burnside: room 710, room 806, and room 848. Room 710 has 5 computers, software like R and Matlab, DVD burners and textbooks for reference. Room 806 has two computers, a round table, a mini-fridge, a microwave, and textbooks for reference. Room 848 is more of a lounge area, with couches and seats, but also two desks. (If anything computer related stops working, you can ask the Network Administrator for help at sysdamin@meteo.mcgill.ca.) 

Some glossaries of atmospheric science terminology:

Resources for all students - academic
In atmospheric science we have many math classes to take. If you need help you can go to the math help desk in Burnside room 911, a free service run by SUMS, the Society of Undergraduate Math Students. You can also try your luck in the SUMS lounge (Burnside 1B20). Plus their website contains notes, old exams, and a list of private tutors. The McGill Society of Physics Students, MSPS, have started also a physics help desk which is open on Mondays and Fridays, from 2:30 to 4:30, at Rutherford 105. But just remember that while the first year or two of atmospheric science may contain lots of math and physics with only some atmospheric classes, by your last year it’ll be almost all atmospheric classes. So don’t get discouraged too early in your degree if you don’t absolutely love physics or math, because while they’re important, they don’t stay the main focus the further along you get in your studies. In the meantime there’s help if you need it:

There are lots of libraries around school, offering great study space, computer use, printing, and photocopying. Some libraries have extended hours during exam period. The Schulich Library of Science and Engineering, which you can get to through the Frank Dawson Adams building next to Burnside, has all atmospheric and oceanic science textbooks in the school (outside of Burnside that is). Speaking of Burnside, there are two libraries great for studying in right here: the geography library on the 5th floor (called the Walter Hitschfeld Geographic Information Centre), and the math library on the 11th floor (the Edward Rosenthall Mathematics and Statistics Library). Note that math textbooks are in Schulich, not the math library. It’s also worth noting that McGill’s largest library (so with lots of study space) is the Humanities and Social Sciences Library, in the connected McLennan and Redpath buildings across campus from Burnside. And here’s a little known use of that library: the Redpath Audio Visual collection has DVDs and VHS videos you can borrow for free. There are also movies, and CDs, to be found in the Marvin Duchow Music Library (accessed from the Strathcona Music Building) and, surprisingly, some good un-business-y films in the Howard Ross Library of Management in the Samuel Bronfman building. Lastly, here are a couple of ways the McGill libraries help make your life easier: when returning a normal-loan book, you can give it in at a different library than where you took it out; also, when you borrow a renewable item from a library, you can renew it online at Muse, which also contains the online catalogue of all library items.

Resources for all students - non-academic
detailed map of the downtown campus

The Brown Student Services building is on McTavish, attached to a building called the University Centre, a.k.a. Shatner. Shatner houses many clubs, a cafeteria, the official school bar Gerts, a large room called the Shatner ballroom for big events, and a lounge full of comfy couches and some computers. Brown houses SSMU (“smoo”), the Students’ Society of McGill University, the group that represents all undergrads, as well as many other useful services like the health clinic, counselling services, student aid, tutorial services, CAPS, and more. CAPS, the Career and Placement Services, is one of the best resources at school. They have workshops year-round on things like interview techniques and job searching, they do career advising, they’ll help you with C.V. writing, and they even have a job listings site.

The Tomlinson Fieldhouse up at 475 Pine W. has some great athletics facilities, like a pool, track, weight room, and field house, which are free for McGill students to use. For a small fee there’s also the fitness centre, tennis courts and squash courts, and fitness classes.

Burnside basement provides study space that is open to science students 24/7, with security. To get in after 10 p.m. weekdays or on weekends and holidays you need your student I.D. card.
Burnside basement also contains the SUS Office, the FUSS office (Freshman Undergraduate Science Society – for U0 science students), and the Computer Taskforce office along with three Taskforce computer rooms. These three rooms, plus the corridor of Burnside basement and various other locations on campus, have computers that any science students can use to surf the net, use Word/Powerpoint/etc, Matlab and print with uPrint or pre-paid credits. Every science student pays for printing credits in their tuition, and if you don’t use up all your credits they do not carry over and you don’t get your money back, so whenever you have printing you may as well make use of the Taskforce printers in Burnside Basement (and elsewhere). If you run out of credits you can buy more from the Taskforce office, and these extra credits do carry over to the next semester.

Students are entitled to a plethora of magazine and newspaper subscription discounts. Look out for the little tables set up around campus at the start of the semester, or go to

There are lots of places to buy food in and around campus. Below rue Dr. Penfield you can get food in:

  • Burnside basement
  • McConnell
  • Redpath library basement (including a mini Tim Hortons)
  • Shatner building (first and second floors)
  • Bronfman
  • Trottier
  • the Arts building
  • the McGill Bookstore (second floor – 3420 McTavish)

There are three student-run cafeterias that are fairly cheap:

  • the architecture caf in the basement of McDonald-Harrington
  • Maces, run by continuing education students, 3437 Peel, or direct entry found off the alley behind Bronfman
  • Frostbite, which mostly sells ice cream(!!) and drinks, located in McConnell (if you score under 30% on a midterm they’ll give you a free ice cream)

There are also two bars on campus:

  • Blues Pub, in the basement of McConnell every Friday
  • Gerts, in Shatner, with an Al-Taib counter

It’s also worth noting that there’s a 24-hour Tim Hortons on the corner of Sherbrooke and University that is larger and closer to Burnside than the Tim Hortons in Redpath. Perfect for any late night study sessions in good ole Burnside.

It’s fortunate for us ATOC students that our department is in Burnside because it’s part of a sometimes-underground, sometimes-ground level path connecting several buildings on campus, so you can avoid going outside on cold, winter days. It goes from Otto Maass-Burnside-Adams-McConnell-McDonald, and from Adams you can also get to McDonald-Harrington. Parts of this path are signified by big yellow dots on the floor, or a yellow sign with a blue drawing of a snail.

Other cool things worth knowing about
McGill has many options for exchanges and studying abroad, with many international schools holding tuition exchange agreements with McGill – meaning you pay the normal tuition you pay here while away at the other university. It can be a little difficult finding a suitable curriculum for a semester or two abroad for atoc students since 1) our program is not as widespread as many others, and 2) missing a McGill atoc course can throw off your remaining semesters a little by making classes fall out of order. Nonetheless it’s certainly possible to work out participating in the study abroad or exchange programs, so don’t be discouraged! Other ways to go overseas are volunteering or working abroad during summers off from school or just after you finish your degree. One way or another, if you’re committed to getting to a foreign country, there are many ways you can do it.

The McGill Alumni Association has in the past held “coffee breaks” - tables set up with free coffee, juice, snacks, and writing utensils during exams period at various places on campus, so look out for it next exam period. The schedule should be mentioned in SSMU e-mails and on the alumni website around exam time. They also offer other benefits to current students, such as the Mentor Program and “Backpack to Briefcase” workshops on making the transition from school to the workforce.

When it comes time to buy books, the most convenient place to go is the McGill Bookstore (which, by the way, sells a lot more than just books), at 3420 McTavish. Unfortunately it’s usually the most expensive option too, even when they’re selling something second-hand. Here is another workaround, you can use vim to auto indent and auto format your code from inside Gedit.Unless you don’t care about saving money, it’s advisable to check out other sources first, whether you want new or used copies, whether you want textbooks or coursepacks: Haven Books (2074 Aylmer, havenbooks.ca), The Word (469 Milton), Chapters (1171 St. Catherine W), chapters.ca (sometimes books are cheaper at Chapters online than Chapters in-store), Amazon.ca, and the McGill Classifieds, at

If you need to get to MacDonald campus in St. Anne de Bellevue, there is a free shuttle bus on weekdays leaving both campuses every 45 minutes. The downtown campus departure point is on Sherbrooke just west of Roddick Gates, near the 24 bus stop. Seating on the bus is first-come, first-served, and to use it you need to get a sticker for your I.D. card from Brown (room 1200).

Those getting their own place should check out Munzer, a bilingual website where tenants rate landlords. There’s also information on your rights as a tenant and what to do if your landlord tries to do something illegal.

The McGill Legal Information, in Brown building, offers free legal information from law students, in English and French. You can drop in (no appointment needed), or call.

The Shagalicious Shop in Brown building is a “student-friendly store” with safe sex products and info. You can also ask any health question anonymously online (doesn't have to be sex-related).

All science undergrads are entitled to two free agendas: one from SSMU, available in Brown (room 1200), and one from SUS, available at the SUS office in Burnside basement (room 1B21). They feature coupons and important school-related dates, like the course add/drop deadline.

There are 2 English student papers and one French-language student paper available throughout the school year all around campus, and are free to take. (They’re paid for in your tuition.) The McGill Daily comes out Mondays and Thursdays, with its French counterpart Le Délit coming out once a week Tuesdays. The McGill Tribune comes out on Tuesdays. You can also read these three papers online.