This interview features Arvind Saraswat, a 2016 RMES PhD graduate! Arvind is currently working as the Head of Air Quality Section with the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
What is your current position?
I currently work as the Head of Air Quality Section (Assessments) with the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. I lead a provincial team of air quality experts responsible for assessing air discharge applications under the Environmental Management Act and the Environmental Assessment Act. My team is also responsible for leading airshed management activities across the province. My section also provides expert opinion on complex compliance and enforcement files, as well as appeals under the Environmental Management Act. My work involves managing the team budget and hiring new staff as well.
What do you enjoy about your job? What are the challenges?
There are many aspects that I enjoy- I will try to cover a few here. The fact that I am able to use my technical skills to protect the environment keeps me happy. I get to work on a variety of challenging technical problems and the challenges make the work interesting. I also get to work with a team of professionals from many disciplines which allows us to learn from each other.
In what ways did your experience in IRES help prepare you for what you do now?
Well, there is a lot that I got to learn during my time at IRES. Firstly, I got to learn a lot from the faculty. I credit Prof. Milind Kandlikar and Prof. Mike Brauer for encouraging me to see beyond the generally accepted solutions for environmental problems. Secondly, I was able to take courses in many disciplines like civil engineering, chemical and biological engineering, statistics, epidemiology, risk assessment, along with core courses. These just helped me understand environmental problems a lot better. Last but not the least, I got to learn a lot from some of the fellow students at IRES and other departments. This positioned me well for the future.
Why did you choose the RMES program (and UBC)? What was your previous educational background, and how did this influence your choice?
I was interested in learning more about the causes and consequences of air pollution and air quality management. Since air quality management requires a wide range of skills, an interdisciplinary program was an obvious choice. I found Milind’s interdisciplinary work on air quality issues very exciting and luckily I got an opportunity to work with him. I have a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and it had a significant influence on my decision–I wanted to build on the skills that I had and learn many new things. Knowing that Milind has a bachelor’s degree in engineering too, I was confident that I was making the right choice.
What was the most enjoyable or impactful part of your experience in IRES?
All of it–it is hard to pick a few. The opportunity to take the courses that I liked, discussions with faculty and fellow students, social events… I still miss the social space at IRES and the coffee machine.
Do you have any advice for current RES students?
Take as many relevant courses as you can, you will perhaps never have that opportunity again. Try to build skills that your potential employers are interested in, for example, data analysis. Of course, the details will vary but most employers are generally interested in presentations and communications skills. Use all opportunities to improve those skills. If possible, attend relevant conferences/events to connect with other professionals in your area of interest.