“My involvement with EWB was one of the main reasons for my decision to transfer into engineering. I was inspired by working with engineers who were using an engineering skill-set to address social issues. This gave me a new perspective on engineering and the roles that engineers can play in society.”
—Kaitlynn Livingstone, Class of 2012
What has made your time at UBC the most memorable?
The people that I have met and have had the opportunity to work with while I have been at UBC have definitely made this a memorable experience for me. In both academic and extra-curricular activities it has been really incredible to be able to share and discuss ideas with people who are coming from different backgrounds with differing perspectives.
Tell me about your experience with UBC Engineering/CHBE? What have you learned that is most valuable?
During my time in engineering the most valuable thing that I have learned is how to approach problems with the aim of not just solving them, but understanding them. I have learned the value of first asking why a problem exists. I have also learned how necessary it is to understand the system the problem exists within before working on a solution. Chemical engineering has taught me to think about systems and has taught me how to consider the interactions between various components of a system. Taking a systems thinking approach to problems is something that I have been able to apply far beyond the scope of chemical processes and it is a skill that I think is really important. At the end of the day, being able to come back to a problem’s relevance is crucial for me. I think that engineering has given me the tools to do this and has been a key part of my education.
How are you applying the skills you learned through your studies at UBC?
Working on team projects such as my design project and project based lab have given me the opportunity to take the skills that I have learned in courses and be able to apply them to a real world problem. These projects involved making design decisions by relying on what I have learned in courses and trusting the work and research that I was doing. Learning how to weigh various options in order to make a design choice and being accountable to my team for the decisions I was making was an exciting, albeit scary, part of this process that drew upon many of the skills that I have learned while in CHBE.
What has been your most memorable experience at UBC?
My most memorable and valuable experiences have come from my work with Engineers Without Borders. I have been involved with EWB on campus for the past five years and have taken on a number of roles within the UBC chapter during this time. Through EWB I have had many opportunities to learn about, debate and discuss global issues with others who share an interest and passion for social justice. Having EWB as a part of my undergrad experience has been an amazing, and often very necessary, balance to my coursework and was very motivating for me throughout my degree. I have also had the experience of working with EWB in Africa as I spent last summer working with district water and sanitation teams in Ghana. This was by far one of the most challenging and greatest learning experiences that I have had and it was an invaluable addition to my education as an engineer.
Why did you choose engineering initially?
I actually started out studying sciences for two years at UBC and transferred into engineering from there. My involvement with EWB was one of the main reasons for my decision to transfer into engineering. I was inspired by working with engineers who were using an engineering skill-set to address social issues. This gave me a new perspective on engineering and the roles that engineers can play in society. My interest in environmental issues led me to transfer into the environmental option of chemical engineering and now, after taking the long route, here I am.
What are your plans for the future–immediate? Long-term?
I am very interested in water management and this is an area that I hope to work in after graduation. Long term, I want to use the skills that I have learned in engineering to positively impact environmental policies in Canada.
How do you feel a degree in engineering has benefited you compared to a different field of study?
I think that for me the benefit of studying engineering is how widely applicable an engineering degree is. I decided to study engineering because of the skills that I would gain learning how to “think like an engineer”. I want to be able to work in both technical and non-technical settings and ultimately be able to use my background in engineering to bridge the gap between the two.
How will you, Kaitlynn Livingstone, go on to make a difference in our world?
I want to apply the skills that I have built in engineering to understand social and environmental problems. For me this means engaging with people to learn as much as I can about the causes of these problems. I want to involve people in issues and get them to rethink how they interact with society and their environment. I believe that by working to integrate the social and technical sides of a problem, I can be a part of creating better solutions.