Alumnus, PhD (2016), Chemistry
I have always been interested in understanding how the environment works; my curiosity led me to spend my childhood summers at a nature camp near the Humber River. Fast forward to June 2011 and I was a recent graduate from Wilfrid Laurier University with a BSc in Chemistry. Applying to the Chemistry department at U of T was a natural progression. I wasn't done learning.
The breadth of expertise and strong collaborative spirit drew me to U of T. The extensive research network at U of T allows for plenty of collaboration both within and outside of the university. My professors have always had an open-door policy and are extremely approachable. They also emphasize the importance of a good work-life balance. Despite its large size, graduate school at U of T still feels like a connected community.
I study atmospheric chemistry, measuring chemicals, particularly ammonia, in the atmosphere to understand where they come from, how they react, and what impacts they have for air quality, ecosystem health, and climate change. My work has revealed the importance of some unorthodox ammonia sources: decomposing seabird feces in the high arctic, and evaporating dew.
I've been fortunate enough to travel to the edge of the world and back for research. I've had two separate NSERC in addition to funding from the NSERC CREATE Program Integrating Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics from Earth to Space (IACPES). That funding has given me the chance to conduct field research in some amazing places; in 2014 and 2016 I spent 6 weeks in the Canadian high arctic measuring the composition of the atmosphere, first on a research icebreaker then at Alert, Nunavut. I've also done research in the Colorado Rockies and the Athabasca Oil Sands Region. These experiences were tremendous learning opportunities and I was rewarded with breath-taking scenery and unforgettable memories.
I've also attended conferences and workshops in Shanghai, San Francisco, Park City (Utah), Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa. Being able to present my findings to international audiences has been one of the highlights of my degree. At U of T I have been able to combine my loves of learning, travelling and exploring.
I defended in August 2016 and have a permanent job lined up with the Department of Environment and Parks in the Alberta Government. I'll be an Atmospheric Scientist and will provide expertise on environmental monitoring and air quality.
I'd tell prospective students to pursue the questions you find interesting. Research usually yields more questions than answers so don't be afraid to choose the projects that pique your interest. A degree is a lot more enjoyable if you're passionate about it.
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