Davi de Ferreyro Monticelli
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
During my undergraduate degree in Environmental Engineering, I realized that my mission was to clean the air we breathe and reduce the environmental and health burden of air pollutants worldwide. The way I envisioned the most opportunities to accomplish this goal was through science training and teaching. I believe that science is the answer to most of the world’s problems and a ladder that can move us towards a society free of injustices. Likewise, teaching students to become better professionals felt not only like a means of helping them climb this ladder but helped me climb my own. Altogether, I decided long ago that I should pursue graduate life, specialize in atmospheric sciences, and learn from great minds.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
After my exchange experience as an undergrad at the University of Auckland - New Zealand, and during my master's degree in Brazil, I knew that I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. internationally. In my search for a supervisor that could help me develop my professional skills, I came across Dr. Naomi Zimmerman. Her lab aims to "develop and apply real-world-based tools to quickly and quantitatively assess the impact of our policy and technology decisions on air pollution and climate outcomes. To use the knowledge gained to support better environmental policy planning." It was the perfect combination I was looking for. In addition, upon researching more about UBC, I noticed the state-of-the-art laboratories and that I would have financial support as an international student. Adding to the quality of life in Canada and the chance of living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Vancouver, I felt magnetically attracted to it all.
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
The Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences at UBC is a world-class program. It is often ranked first place in Canada for research funding and productivity. It provides a basis for the researcher to act independently and in cooperation with federal and provincial laboratories and other research groups worldwide. By joining the program, I knew that I would be constantly surrounded by a thriving environment, either in the research lab or in classrooms.
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
I was surprised at how beautiful the city and campus are. You see pictures and videos online, but nothing compares to being here.
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?
I am enjoying the opportunities to work on my coding skills which are pretty valuable for data analysis of air quality measurements (and work-life in general). Additionally, it is not often that one is able to work with an emerging industry to mitigate its air quality impacts before it can become a near-irreversible problem.
What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?
Being a graduate student at UBC and exchanging work and life experiences with various incredible mentors opened my eyes to new pathways I can explore. Starting my own consulting office or pursuing a prestigious position in an international organization seem at reach. But no matter which path I take, two things will remain critical to me: 1) fund other students without the financial means to experience what I had and 2) develop economic alternative technologies to reduce air pollution worldwide.
How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?
Being part of the Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences program and developing a research project targeting the air quality impacts of the emergent cannabis industry will pair my current skills with new techniques and provide me with further experience in negotiating with industry, communities and environmental agencies. I am confident that this is a strong opportunity to enhance my leadership skills.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?
The last seven years of my academic career have been marked by enormous efforts to achieve results beyond my expectations. It began with my overseas experience in 2014-2015 at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, funded by the Brazilian Government - Science Without Borders scholarship. It was exhilarating living on a new continent and experiencing different cultures. Moreover, it inspired me to achieve higher grades, which led to my Scientific Initiation Scholarship award (2017 – 2018). Then, in a short time of 2019 - 2021, I managed to publish as lead author or co-author three original research papers in prestigious journals and present three conference papers at international events. Because of my time management skills and dedication, I could do all this and finish my Master’s degree six months ahead of schedule. In parallel, I worked as an independent consultant on projects related to odorous emission mitigation in Vitoria – ES/Brazil, helping socially and economically disadvantaged communities reduce nuisance from odour while negotiating mitigation strategies with local government and industry in a team-based operation. The collection of these experiences, the immense support of family and friends, and the excellent instruction from all my professors throughout life have best prepared me for my UBC graduate program.
What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?
I love to explore new places. Whenever the sun comes out, I search for a spot to enjoy the day. It could be an afternoon on Kitsilano beach, a day trip to Grouse Mountain, or a walk in Pacific Spirit Park. If the sun is shy, I simply enjoy a good movie/TV show or a book. I also swim three times a week for my health and love to be invited to sports events.
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
Graduate life is like the tide, and you have to recognize and accept the lows as well as nurture and prosper during the highs. Seek support from your supervisor and colleagues, you may be surprised at how much they are willing to help you. On the other hand, aim high for your achievements, which could be publications and/or scholarships. If you want to have weekly access to more advice, you can also follow the Instagram page I co-created with my wife: @ph.d.uo. Created during COVID-19, @ph.d.uo helps undergraduate and graduate students all over the world (+4000 followers, top locations: India (22%), USA (14%), UK (6%), Brazil(5%), Canada (4.1%) with practical skills related to graduate study. For instance, a recent post about ‘Contacting a prospective supervisor’ had the following comments: “Really helpful post!” and “That’s great advice for university students! Thanks for this post”. These feedbacks keep us motivated to provide more content. Our most famous post, about papers you can write without results, reached almost 100,000 people, had +2000 likes, 13 comments, 231 shares and +3000 saves. We also have a literature review course available. Hope to see you there to exchange our experience!