Loïc Nassif is a PhD student in Computer Science at McGill and works as a Teaching Assistant.
Where did you grow up / where is home for you?
Albeit I’m born in Montréal, I have spent most of my childhood in and around Toronto. I spend a good deal of time going back and forth between the two cities since I have friends and family in both.
What is your academic research about?
The overarching field that I work in is called Computer Graphics. It deals with digital image synthetization. Animated movies, video games, virtual reality, digital art tools, text and video editors, visual engineering simulations, and airline pilot training simulators all require complex algorithms to accurately and efficiently recreate compelling visual effects (for example, the rustling of a tree’s leaves in the wind in a children’s animated show). I personally work on realistically animating the contact of objects. This means that when two objects collide, I need to consider the physics involved and find ways to compute the accurate motion as fast as possible.
What do you like doing for fun?
My two main hobbies are cooking and cycling. I also occasionally take my cat out for walks.
Favorite place in Montreal?
I don’t have a particular place in mind, but since I enjoy cycling, I will say the bike path along the Canal de Lachine is wonderful. Cycling infrastructure is something that Montréal excels at compared to most other Canadian cities.
How long have you been working as a TA at McGill?
I’ve been a TA since the Winter 2021 semester.
How long have you been AGSEM delegate? What have been your tasks as a delegate so far?
I joined during the winter 2022 semester. One of the main tasks of being a delegate is to, every semester, audit the list of TA appointment by the hiring unit. This task seems to have unfortunately been left undone for a while in my department before I joined, but I spent a bit of time writing a few scripts that helps to quickly compute the data and gives the ability to easily compare the results with previous semesters. Hopefully that will encourage future delegates to be more thorough and help us build a history of employment statistics that will give us a better picture of the long-term trends in hiring practices.
What is your favorite part of working as a TA?
I reckon my answer will be like most people in teaching related positions, and that is to see a student succeed. But even more satisfying than a student succeeding in a particular course, is to successfully foster academic curiosity. Many students enroll in Computer Science programs with no interest in pursuing a research career, and thus it is always great to see a student reconsider their path due to a positive learning experience they’ve had with a TA, professor or lecturer.
What has been the biggest challenge in your work so far?
Keeping myself within the allocated TA hours. Even if the tasks on paper (grading, time spent in office hours, etc…) are within the hours, there is a lot of prep work in trying to do an excellent job. This includes reviewing material, going through the assignments to be well prepared to assist students and helping debugging students’ codebases, which can occasionally take many extra hours.
What should be improved about the current TA Collective Agreement between AGSEM and McGill?
This somewhat follows from my previous answer, and that would be to increase contract hours per semester. A simple change from 90/180 hours to 100/200 hours would of course increase total pay, which is always what a union should strive for when negotiating a CA, but it would also allow TAs to truly prepare themselves better to assist students in their courses. Since TAs are often the main academic interaction for a lot of students, this would increase the quality and experience of learning at McGill dramatically and reflect greatly on their reputation.
Why do you think unionizing and having a strong labour union is important for Teaching Assistants, Invigilators, and other groups of employees at McGill?
For the same reasons that strong labour unions are important in any sector of society. Historically, it is the only organizing tool that allowed workers to seriously demand better working conditions and their fair share from the employer and the state. A lot of these working conditions are often taken for granted today without the knowledge that it required and keeps requiring constant fighting from unions, such as AGSEM, to keep these rights alive.
Are you involved or interested in other activist or political movements/organizations at the moment?
I wear a few different hats at AGSEM. For one I am part of the ongoing union drive to unionize teaching support workers at McGill. I also sit on the audit committee.
Thank you for your union involvement and for participating in the Q&A, Loïc!
"Get to Know Your Delegate" is a series of blog posts introducing AGSEM Delegates in a Q&A format. Are you an AGSEM Delegate interested in being featured in the series? Email your External Communications Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org