Tim Abbott
Tim Abbott
Studies in: Kelowna, BC
Environmental Engineering,
PhD Candidate at UBC Okanagan

Tim Abbott, a PhD student living in Kelowna, is passionate about using bio-engineering to solve the difficult challenges our environment is facing. Tim studies at UBC’s Okanagan campus and enjoys putting his research to work directly into the community.

Why did you choose to go to UBC?

The reputation of UBC and the many opportunities it offers were big reasons. UBC offered me the opportunity to participate in research while learning from some of the best people in engineering. With UBC Okanagan being relatively new, it is a small and close-knit community. You get the quality of UBC with the added benefit of small classroom sizes. You really get to know your colleagues and faculty.

What drew you to your area of study?

Well, I’ve always loved helping people and solving problems. I want to make a positive impact on the world, and engineers have a unique opportunity to do that. Environmental engineers can make a difference in society by lessening our footprint on the environment.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far on your UBC journey?

To question assumptions. To question the status quo. Just because something has been done one way doesn’t mean it’s the right way of doing it, or even the best way, for that matter.

What’s the biggest challenge facing the environment in BC?

There are lots of challenges, but I would say the biggest is minimizing climate change and its impacts on the province. One of the best ways we can do this is by better using waste materials. In the environment, there is no such thing as waste. It’s a closed loop, as one thing’s waste is the raw material for something else. I think we need to do a better job of mimicking how nature does this. For instance, there’s lots of material from municipal and agricultural activities that can be used as a resource instead of extracting new materials for the same purpose. We need to get better at closing that loop by better using waste materials.

What do you value most in your UBC community?

I’d say the interactions with other students and people from around the world. It’s nice being surrounded by the best and brightest minds there are — to have conversations with those people and to see some of the groundbreaking research going on around UBC is an amazing experience.

What has been the highlight of your UBC experience so far?

Participating in cutting-edge research and being able to make a difference. Even as an undergraduate, doing research and having those results be meaningful and significant has been such a wonderful experience.

Who is the most inspiring person you’ve met at UBC, and why?

My supervisor Dr. Cigdem Eskicioglu. She’s one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met. She’s assembled a remarkable team and built one of the best-equipped environmental engineering labs in North America. And, now we’re getting answers to very interesting and important questions.

What role can bio-engineering play in shaping BC’s environment?

Bio-engineering can utilize many of those waste products. It’s not just about reducing the impact of waste, it’s also about recovering energy and resources while using systems that mimic natural biological processes. When we engineer systems that can do that, it not only diverts waste from landfills but also creates quite a few other opportunities, which can be beneficial for BC in terms of jobs and other economic activity.