Eric Lees

Electrolytic Conversion of (Bi)carbonate Carbon Capture Solutions into Value-added Products
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

During my undergraduate degree, I recognized that the immense challenges of climate change will not only require technical innovations, but also political and economic solutions. While my undergraduate degree in chemical engineering provided me with good fundamental knowledge, I wanted to pursue a graduate degree to build leadership skills and a broader technical background to assist me in addressing these complex problems related to climate change.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

I chose to pursue my PhD at UBC because of the excellent faculty within the department of chemical and biological engineering (CHBE) and their expertise in energy research, catalysis, and electrochemistry. I also recognized the importance of collaborating with industry and saw an opportunity to develop connections within the growing cleantech sector in Vancouver.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

I was drawn to chemical engineering because it provides a framework of useful tools for solving problems at various scales that impact people's lives—from consumer goods to energy production. Another appealing aspect of chemical engineering is that its scope is always growing and being redefined, allowing practitioners to continuously learn new skills throughout their careers. An example of this growth within the discipline is research at the interface of material science and process engineering, which I actively leverage in my own research to develop fit-for-purpose materials for electrochemical processes.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

The best surprise about working and living in Vancouver was the excitement about technology and innovation within the UBC community. People are invested in making an impact and I am very fortunate to work with the talented scientists and engineers at UBC. I also have become really comfortable in the city environment of Vancouver and enjoy the outdoor activities that the area has to offer.

What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

I am excited about my upcoming research project that aims to demonstrate our CO2 capture and conversion technology at a larger scale.

What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?

I know I want to work in clean energy, but I foresee a challenge in deciding whether to focus on more mature technologies that are closer to deployment or more “blue-sky” projects in a research environment.

How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?

Luckily, I have been given the opportunity to be involved in and manage several industrial collaborations within our research group. These experiences have been invaluable in providing me with a holistic view of the energy industry and guiding my next career steps.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

During my undergraduate degree, I was fortunate to gain technical engineering and project management skills through co-op work placements. These experiences have shaped the pragmatic way I approach research questions in my PhD.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

Whenever we get good weather in Vancouver, you can find me skateboarding, camping, golfing, biking, or hiking!

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Invest time in learning new skills while remaining focused on the big picture. It is often the case that graduate students rush the progress of a research project and end up down a different path, which may or may not be fruitful. The key is to plan your project. Allocate time and resources to framing the problem and acquiring the necessary skills before you execute the project. Spending time upfront usually pays dividends.


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