Energy summer school a valuable experience, say attendees

In July 2013, CMC sent five second year PhD students to the UK Energy Research Centre’s summer school at the University of Warwick. Amir Bahman Radneja, who is working with Viola Birss at the University of Calgary, and Anna Harrison, working with Greg Dipple at the University of British Columbia, both wrote blogs about their experiences. Below are their stories.

By Amir Bahman Radneja

Amir Bahman Radneja, University of Calgary

I had the opportunity to attend in the one of the most reputable summer schools in the field of energy and environment in the world this summer.

Each year the UK Energy Research Center (UKERC) gathers  100 doctoral students from the UK and other countries  at the University of Warwick in the English Midlands for discussions about energy systems and particularly pathways to low-carbon and resilient energy systems. This year there were students from Canada, UK, USA, Germany, Italy, Australia, China, Japan, India, France, New Zealand and many other countries. The exciting part of this gathering was meeting people from very diverse backgrounds. There were students from engineering schools, science schools, art schools, law schools, public policy schools and business schools from the most reputable universities around the globe.

About 13 talks were provided for participants on variety of topics such as energy generation, energy markets, energy policy, US shale gas, demand-side management for electricity sector, the biomass industry in UK, USA and Brazil, energy modeling, energy communication, ecosystem services, energy behaviors, nuclear energy and energy in developing countries.  In addition to these remarkable talks, there were helpful sessions to increase the presentation and communications skills of PhD students. Besides of all these serious and academic talks, there were social events organized that increased the chance to socialize with other students and UKERC members (more than 200 members attended in the last two days of the summer school) .

I personally enjoyed each second of being there and also I learned a lot from the talks provided. The interesting point for me was the differences between North American and European views regarding energy issues. I identified some major differences that helped me get a better understanding of global energy systems. I would highly recommend for students who are studying and living in Canada to participate in such events to realize how complex the energy industry and how many factors are involved in the future of energy on this planet. I appreciate the support of CMC that facilitated my attendance in UKERC and hope CMC can provide this support in following years for other students.

By Anna Harrison

Anna Harrison, left, with summer school students

Carbon Management Canada provided me with a travel subsidy to attend the United Kingdom Energy Research Council (UKERC) summer school at the University of Warwick in Coventry, United Kingdom. The school brings together 100 second year PhD students from across the globe to learn about the energy sector with topics ranging from renewable energy sources to decreasing the energy demand of the end user. Lectures from an array of international energy experts were interspersed with more informal ‘master classes’ that delved deeper into particular topics. As a scientist, the policy and economy oriented discussions provided me with an interesting perspective as to how science fits in to the economics and policies related to the energy sector.

Perhaps the most valuable aspect of the school was the opportunity to meet and work alongside students of such diverse backgrounds. Early on in the week-long school, we were divided into groups of ten and assigned an energy policy question to tackle. We then had to defend our answers in a presentation to members of the UKERC annual assembly. It was challenge to organize ten people with unique opinions and perspectives, but was a good lesson in interdisciplinary collaboration.

Although packed full of talks and group work during the day, the summer school schedule also included social activities in the evening. One of these was a cultural evening, which showcased the diverse food, drink, and music from each student’s culture. A ‘drum café’ had everybody playing the bongos in time, and a céilidh dance provided a pretty good workout. With every minute packed full, the school was a challenging and worthwhile experience.