Clean Energy Engineering
Alumnus Story — Ivan Lapczak
After eight years in the oil and gas industry as a process engineer, Ivan Lapczak enrolled in the Master of Engineering Leadership program to broaden his knowledge of the sustainable energy sector. He’s now working at the City of Surrey’s district energy utility, developing innovative energy solutions that support our transition to a lower carbon future.
Ivan Lapczak built a successful career in the Canadian energy industry, progressing from designing distillation columns to working on the process design of a major liquefied natural gas export terminal. When he learned about the 12-month Master of Engineering Leadership (MEL) program in Clean Energy Engineering, he saw an opportunity to expand his knowledge of the sustainable energy sector and pursue a new career path.
“The UBC program looked like an exciting opportunity to discuss practical methods for implementing energy solutions that are sustainable, environmentally sound and conscious of their impact on society,” he says. The business and leadership courses were also appealing, as they offered the structure and time to enhance the business management techniques he had developed on the job during his eight years in industry.
Broadening technical skills and enhancing leadership abilities
The technical classes in the Clean Energy Engineering program follow the energy value chain, from energy conversion processes to energy transportation & storage and energy policy and economics. Ivan says the coursework in these classes explored system-level thinking, theoretical efficiency limits and practical operational challenges.
“I really appreciated the first principle approach taken in the energy system fundamentals course. I developed the skills to take basic theories and effectively apply them to real energy conversion systems. I gained a new appreciation for the concept of energy quality and the many real-world benefits of analyzing the impacts to quality through the use of energy resources.”
The business course in analytics also proved valuable. “I was introduced to concepts such as data wrangling and visual analytics, and I developed skills to manage large sets of data using new software — as well as how to present the data effectively for analysis and decision making.”
He also notes that the organizational leadership course has enhanced his ability to successfully manage and motivate teams through periods of organizational change.
One seminar inspires a career change
An on-campus industry seminar introduced Ivan to district energy developments in Vancouver. He knew about these sustainable energy solutions from travels to Copenhagen and Stockholm and was keen to learn about similar developments in BC.
“I sensed that this was a good fit for me, as district energy aligned with my interests and would allow me to transfer skills from my oil and gas experience,” he says.
Ivan is now working as a project engineer with Surrey City Energy, a district energy utility that supplies heat and hot water to residential, commercial and institutional buildings in the city centre. In this position, he assists in designing and constructing the distribution network and energy plants, assesses the thermal efficiency of the district energy network, and is investigating low-carbon energy options for future integration into the utility.
“That one seminar on district energy eventually propelled me onto my current career path,” he says.
The MEL program has also deepened his understanding of the challenges facing the energy industry as it transitions away from fossil fuels. “During both the engineering and leadership portions of the program we discussed the many barriers to achieving this transition — technical, financial and societal. In five years, I hope to be implementing innovative energy solutions as part of this energy transition.”