Claire Brightman

Environmental Engineering

Degree you are studying toward:
Bachelor of Applied Science (BASc)

Expected year of graduation:

University of Northern BC and UBC (joint program)

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Fun Facts About Me

If your best friend had to describe you in 10 words or less, what would they say?:
Passionate about making a difference and always down for an adventure.

Share one fun fact about yourself:
I love to knit and do other weaving crafts! These are a great stress reliever, and you get something at the end like a toque, basket, or piece of art!

What do you want to accomplish in the next 10 years?:
I want to help contribute to navigate our society away from our traditional economy based on linear growth and move to a circular economy in which health and well-being are more highly valued. These concepts are so intermixed within all jobs and lives, but also pose a benefit to all. We cannot continue to grow in the way that we have for the last century for we live on a planet of finite resources so logically it just doesn’t make sense. So, there is much to do! In the next 10 years I hope to increase awareness of such an idea and advocate for measuring wealth in terms of health and well-being rather than through GDP as we commonly do. This concept can help us to reach the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals which outline some of the most pressing and important problems for our future.

The most inspiring engineer I know is ....... Because ........?:
The most inspiring engineer I know is Emily Chung PEng because she is such a bada** woman. She was my professor in my second-year design course, and I feel like she truly emulates what it is to be an engineer. She is knowledgeable and savvy but doesn’t get lost in the technicalities. She is realistic and pragmatic but still encourages creativity and out of the box thinking. She is also proud and confident and a great role model for how to conduct oneself in this field (especially when faced with people who do not agree). She taught us what is important, and her many years of experience showed us exactly how those skills are applied. She inspires me because she knows what she does, is good at it, and doesn’t apologize for doing what is right.

Profile Questions

Why did you choose your program of study?:
I have always had a love for the natural environment and spending time outdoors. I grew up near the Rockies and have a profound respect for the natural world. Upon finishing high school began to understand the harmful impacts that are plaguing it, many of which are anthropogenic in cause. I became passionate about climate activism and decided I wanted to try and create a positive impact to help the environment. This meant finding solutions for problems spanning both environmental and social aspects as the two are so interconnected. Also, growing up I have always enjoyed problems with logical solutions therefore the sciences were always my favourite and I did well in maths (never did I think I would come to love math as I do know ha-ha). Therefore, environmental engineering seemed like a great path for me! This allows me to combine technical skills with the real-life problems I am very passionate about!

What has been your favourite course (in Engineering) and why?:
My favourite course to date is a toss-up between my two design courses at UNBC. In first- and second-year design courses are taken where we do multiple team based projects with a huge range in scope (some challenges last a few minutes and others the entire term). I loved these courses because:
1) they are so fun and such a great opportunity to be creative! We often had to build small things (such as a aluminum foil boat), or design larger items (like a neighbourhood waste management system). Whatever we did, though, there were always changing constraints that made the problems interesting – best of all we got to see what everyone else came up with too!
2) We got to work in teams. I really enjoy project work because I find I learn so much from others and ultimately, we reach a better idea with more input. Team projects were also great for building our community in our program. Many people I knew from other disciplines didn’t know most of their classmates but for us, we all knew each other by name shortly after the start of first year! Engineering is hard, I won’t lie, so having people to rely on and support you is immensely valuable.
Overall, theses courses were what made engineering worth the struggle and I am really looking forward to my final design course in fourth-year :)

What has been the best part of your Engineering education to date?:
The people are the best. And honestly, the memes. Truly though, there is a never-ending supply of memes that we create and share amongst each other and it really helps get through the tough courses we must take. I am so appreciative of the community that I have with my class and it is something I know isn’t unique to my school.

What do you hope to do after you graduate?:
As environmental engineering is still a growing discipline, we learn a lot from many other majors (like civil, chemical, bio, and mining) and so we are exposed to so many options as to what to do. I am hoping to take this wide set of skills and apply it to remediating old work sites left from industries such as mining or oil and gas. Although there are now policies in place requiring companies to have decommissioning and remediation plans there was not this responsibility in the past and so there are many abandoned work sites in need of attention. These abandoned sites pose as both a safety risk as well as an environmental burden. Left unattended the sites are unlikely to regenerate naturally (or will do so much more slowly) as they are often cleared of any nutrients or healthy topsoil. Therefore, they have unprecedented opportunity to become positively impactful areas. They can be used for renewable energy, advanced farming, or remediated with biota to become huge carbon sinks (like a wetland or forest!).

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