Shiva Zargar

 
Developing an integrated analytical platform for evaluating the role of forest biorefineries in achieving a sustainable bioeconomy
 
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

Not everyone in this world is lucky enough to get an education or go to university and I believe if one has been given this chance then one should pursue the opportunity to attain the highest achievements in this path. As a woman from Iran I have faced many barriers in my life. It did not take me long as a young girl to identify the barriers I would need to overcome to be seen as an equal to men in my country and culture. I knew that I would need to work at an extremely high and exacting standard to succeed in achieving my goals as a scholar, researcher, entrepreneur, and ultimately, a role model to other women. I knew I needed to show the young girls of my culture that these barriers can be overcome and they can achieve whatever they wanted in life with focus and hard work. As Nelson Mandela says “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” At this moment, humanity’s most significant challenge is to understand and manage the environmental and economic impacts, synergies and trade-offs of industrial activities. Managing such industries for sustainability requires STEM mindset leaders with unique expertise and skills such as extensive data-based research, computational modelling, economical awareness, and the ability to manage complex quantitative and qualitative data. Pursuing a graduate degree allows me to consciously build these skills to contribute to the science of sustainable bioeconomy, and to develop and lead companies toward the true meaning of sustainability.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

I chose UBC to conduct both my second master’s degree and Ph.D. research as it is one of the most prestigious universities in the world. I wanted to conduct my research at a university that is known worldwide for its high level of education and UBC was that one. Furthermore, I was keen to work with professor Qingshi Tu, my current supervisor, who has extensive knowledge of industrial ecology, sustainability modeling, and forest biorefinery, bioenergies and bioproducts. The high quality of research at UBC, and its researchers, support and prepare me to be a future leader in the sustainable bioeconomy area. Studying at UBC has allowed me to learn from top chemists, materials scientists, foresters, economists, and engineer experts. UBC has also allowed me to be part of a great community, such as the BioProducts Institute which is an academic centre of excellence that mobilizes the experience, expertise and passion of an enthusiastic and multidisciplinary research team to the benefit of the Canadian forest industry. Collaborating with the research team at BioProducts Institute has allowed me to develop a strong professional network.

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

Opportunities for collaboration with industry, government and researchers attracted me the most. My program gives me the flexibility to learn about the materials that are directly related to my research or interest me the most rather than taking mandatory courses. My supervisor, professor Qingshi Tu, is an expert in the field of industrial ecology and I have so much to learn from him. He is also very supportive and always encourages getting involved, staying in touch with relevant communities, and collaborating with other research groups. Furthermore, the Faculty of Forestry building is exceptionally inspiring as the wooded environment is an invigorating place to study and work from.

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

Exploring the campus and the vibrant city of Vancouver. There is always a cool café or bar to try for the first time, or a new hiking trail to discover. Also, the amount of rain that can happen in one city has amazed me!

I chose UBC to conduct both my second master’s degree and Ph.D. research as it is one of the most prestigious universities in the world. I wanted to conduct my research at a university that is known worldwide for its high level of education and UBC was that one. The high quality of research at UBC, and its researchers, support and prepare me to be a future leader in the sustainable bioeconomy area.
 
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

I truly enjoy the weekly conversations I have with my supervisor as part of our regular weekly meetings. I found his talks very inspiring which keep me motivated and on track for achieving my goals for Ph.D. research as well as my future career. Furthermore, I enjoy conversations with professionals and researchers at conferences, workshops, and through the projects I have been doing for the government or industry. There are always so many things one can learn from these conversations. Having more “AHA” moments is the one I am always looking forward to with the greatest curiosity. “AHA” moments: a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension (definition from Merriam-Webster).

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

Meeting high expectations of myself is my biggest challenge. I believe I have gained so much knowledge through my educational and professional journeys that I can serve my community, society, and the world in so many ways by being a professor, sustainability advisor, researcher, engineer, writer, speaker or coach. I would say choosing a career in which I can serve humanity in the best way would be my biggest challenge.

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

My program is providing me with the knowledge and tools to make me ready to be whoever I would like to become in the future. My supervisor especially is providing me with guidance and telling me about the pros and cons of each career path (e.g. academia or industry).

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

Being the first child, therefore a role model for my sibling, helped me understand the importance of education, as well as doing good and positively impacting other people’s actions and lives. Doing research at a graduate level assures me that I, or my research, will have a positive impact on people’s lives and the environment.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

I love rollerblading and I have been a rollerblading coach for more than 10 years. Rollerblading with my partner is the most fun activity for me. In summer, you can find me/us rollerblading around the Point Grey campus and in winter skiing and ice skating. My relaxation therapy is watching the sunset.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

My first piece of advice is to take care of your mental and physical health. Gaining the highest achievements without being healthy is not worth a penny. My second piece of advice is to look at graduate programs as a journey in which you will learn, grow, build a strong network with many professionals, and make yourself ready for the next journey. Last but not least, do not be afraid of making mistakes. It’s OK to make mistakes as long as you learn from them so you do not make those mistakes twice.

 
 
 

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