The field of engineering is full of complicated and complex problems. But BCIT’s Dr. Zahra Tooyserkani takes her students through one problem-solving process like no other.
Her environmental engineering course, “EENG 8293: Climate, Energy and Carbon Management” (part of the BCIT Bachelor of Technology in Environmental Engineering, and originally designed by Program Head Dr. Olga Petrov) takes the challenges of teaching complex systems to a global level.
“In this course, we’re looking at how human activities are changing [Earth’s] atmosphere, and how we can manage it,” explains Dr. Tooyserkani. “If you think of the whole Earth, it has inflows—energy from the Sun—and outflows—radiation back to space. Right now we have more inflow than outflow and that causes global warming.”
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Despite the scale of the challenge, Dr. Tooyserkani says more and more students with diverse backgrounds are drawn to studying greenhouse gas emissions.
“They recognize that the most important thing right now is reducing our emissions,” she says. Students study the latest scientific evidence on climate change as well as mitigation strategies, carbon trading systems, inventories and verification principals.
Despite the interest and the many strategies available, she acknowledges the lag in implementing change. “Everyone cares and it’s hard because it’s not our routine,” she says, “but I see [change] coming.” With more students getting involved each year, Dr. Tooyserkani believes the momentum is picking up. “Everyone should know a little bit about what’s happening.”
For Dr. Tooyserkani, it’s important to understand all aspects of the global warming problem, including greenhouse gas emissions from energy production. For her PhD studies, Dr. Tooyserkani focused on turning waste into fuel, improving the qualities of wood pellets for efficient energy generation. It was then that she found her way to teaching at BCIT: “I saw how the course combined environmental engineering and industrial technology and it was the perfect match for me.”
When asked about her experience as a woman in the field of engineering, she acknowledges there are hurdles. “It’s hard in all disciplines, and specifically engineering,” she says, “as a woman, you face more challenges to have the same rights.” She admits that part of the challenge can come from internalized beliefs about what women should do, but she hopes more women will see themselves entering engineering.
With the growing urgency of global warming, it’s clear that the world needs more problem solvers like Dr. Tooyserkani: ones who do not shy away from even the most complex of challenges.
This story is part of the monthly Countdown to Ecocity 2019 series, which highlights BCIT’s leadership in the face of today’s complex environment challenges. This initiative supports the Ecocity Standard for Earth’s Carrying Capacity, which looks at how the demands on ecosystems stay within the limits of the Earth’s ability to restore resources.
Learn more about BCIT’s role as host of the Ecocity World Summit in 2019.