Matei Petrescu (he/him) is a PhD candidate in Physics at McGill. He has been working as AGSEM Secretary Treasurer since 2018.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a one-bedroom apartment in Bucharest, Romania.
What is the focus of your academic research?
Experimental condensed matter physics. I study the physics of semiconductors where a two-dimensional sheet of electrons forms at low temperatures near absolute zero.
What do you like doing for fun?
Swimming for McGill Masters team and taking pictures of the night sky (astrophotography). Fun fact, I have represented Canada in the Masters World
Swimming Championships in 2019 in Gwangju, South Korea, where I have
placed 19th in 200 meter Individual Medley event.
Favorite place in Montreal?
Old Port and Saint-Helene Island.
What's your favorite thing about AGSEM?
Free food and moving for a long meeting adjournment! I am kidding of course! I
do love the cohesion formed recently between the Executive Committee and all
the other members. It certainly feels like family.
How long have you been a TA at McGill?
I TA-ed for 8 years (2013-2021), only for the Physics department. It was an
Why did you first become interested in getting involved with your union? Any past experiences that made you realize the importance of labor organizing?
In 2013, I have TA-ed for the first time and got to know about our union via the Physics delegate. Later, in 2014, I became an AGSEM Physics delegate myself, as well as the treasurer of McGill Graduate Association of Physics Students (MGAPS). Both of my mandates lasted until 2018 when I became AGSEM’s Secretary-Treasurer. I did gain valuable experience from my implication in labor organization through both of my previous experiences.
What were your tasks as an AGSEM delegate for the Physics department?
My two main tasks were to verify the TA appointment lists for the Physics department, and to attend the DC meetings in which I was actively participating.
Why do you think having a strong labour union is important for Teaching Assistants, Invigilators, and other groups of employees at McGill?
I do think that unionizing and having a strong labor union is important in general
as it provides a shield against possible employer abuse of all sorts. More
specifically, for TAs and invigilators, this collective movement is providing a better work environment in which everyone understands their rights and duties.
What has been your favorite part of working as a TA?
I have enjoyed interacting with students as a TA, since I was a laboratory demonstrator, and later a coordinator (position commonly nicknamed as a superTA). I feel that I have contributed to the development of multiple generations of undergraduate students with knowledge and--most importantly--intellectual and moral support (in certain cases).
What has been the biggest challenge in your work as a TA so far?
Managing time spent with and for students. I was obsessed with doing everything perfectly and often forgot to properly log my TA hours!
What does your role as the Secretary-Treasurer entail?
I oversee all the financial operations, such as bank accounts management, payroll, timesheets, honoraria, affiliate dues/reimbursements, invoices, members reimbursements, legal business issues, taxes and employer source deductions, etc.
What has been the most important / rewarding / satisfying part of that work so far?
I do take pride in fighting for every dollar that can end up in the union’s pocket.
Sometimes it can be an honest billing mistake, for instance with McGill’s accounts receivable department for the LAN jack and phone line services. I am always doing my best to stay on top of financial tasks and thus be aware of what is owed to us, for instance the TA or Invigilator liberations from McGill.
What will be your top priority as the Secretary Treasurer for the 2023-2024 academic year?
My top priority for 2023-2024 fiscal year is to reduce the level of financial bureaucracy within the union. I want to create better templates and procedures that will streamline union's operations, especially now that more and more members have been actively participating in the union's activities.
Hopes about the upcoming TA negotiations? What should absolutely be improved about the current TA Collective Agreement?
I do have high hopes for the upcoming TA negotiations. There are certain points that need to be addressed, or, better said, re-addressed (as these were already on the table during the past negotiations, but never made it into the current Collective Agreement).
Are you involved or interested in other activist or political movements/organizations at
Not at the moment!
Would you like to add anything?
Awesome initiative! Thanks.
Thank you, Matei!
"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 email@example.com