Student Experience – Shannon Goulden
As a Sustainability Research Scholar, Shannon Goulden gained meaningful work experience in a new industry and grew her professional network – all while helping Metro Vancouver advance its sustainability initiatives.
Why did you decide to apply for the Sustainability Scholars Program?
When I learned about the Sustainability Scholars Program a few months before starting the MEL in Clean Energy Engineering, I knew right away that I wanted to apply. The Sustainability Scholars Program seemed like a good opportunity to get exposure to a new industry and make connections.
How does the program work?
It’s available to all UBC graduate students – not just those in the MEL or MHLP. The website explains it all, but as a student you are matched with a partner organization to work on a research project connected to sustainability. The site lists all the potential employers and projects, from which you are asked to narrow down your top three choices. I had to write a letter of intent expressing my interest in my top choices and stating why I would be a good match for the project.
What project were you hired for?
I was interviewed for my first-choice position at Metro Vancouver and offered the job. Over the course of four months, I was responsible for performing a life-cycle assessment of light-, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles using low-emission powertrain technologies to help Metro Vancouver develop a new methodology for procuring fleet vehicles that is not solely based on cost.
What did your analysis show?
I used GREET LCA software to complete a life-cycle assessment of the impact of various powertrain technologies. This required conducting research to justify or challenge assumptions within the model. For all light-duty vehicles, battery electric was the best choice in terms of lowest life-cycle emissions. For medium- and heavy-duty trucks, renewable natural gas offered the lowest life-cycle emission option if Metro Vancouver uses methane sourced from its wastewater treatment plants to power the vehicles. However, this finding should be re-evaluated when more zero-emission technologies become commercially available for medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks.
What were some of the highlights of the position?
My mentor at Metro Vancouver put me in touch with the municipality’s Air Quality and Climate Change group. It was great to connect with these individuals, who were very helpful in answering my questions and verifying my work and analysis. The Sustainability Scholars Program Manager, Karen Taylor, was also very supportive and went above and beyond to make sure we had everything we needed to be successful in the program.
Would you recommend the Sustainability Scholars Program to other students?
One hundred percent. This was one of the best experiences of my year as a MEL student. I had an opportunity to learn about a new industry (having never worked in the transportation industry before), and was able to use my research skills to contribute to Metro Vancouver’s climate action targets of reducing their fleet emissions.