In July 2022, I shall be retiring from UBC.  I am grateful to the Canada Research Chair program for their support for 21 years.  I have been blessed by the many very talented collaborators who have put their trust in our collaboration for two or more years and produced theses I am very proud of.  I continue to be humbled by many applicants who continue to write to me about working together towards their Master or PhD degrees.  Sadly, I shall not be taking any more students.  However, if I may, I have the following advice of all applicants to graduate programs / research teams.

At UBC, you can find many potential supervisors at UBC here.

I encourage you to;

  1. Use keywords to search on the site for topics that match your interests.
  2. Having found a few suitable supervisors, search for their publications on Google Scholar and read at least three papers from each potential supervisor.
  3. Then use their website to contact some of their current and past students. These students can tell you if the university and researcher have been supportive and met their needs — or at least highlight some of the challenges you will need to address if you get into that program.
  4. Once you have completed all this research, decide who you would like to work with and contact them. When you write to the professors, mention their work explicitly. It shows that you understand what they do rather than just wrote to them at random.

Following these steps in the search for a position is critical to finding a supportive mentor.



Professor & Canada Research Chair in Applied Mathematics and Integrated Study of Global Change

I am honoured to be a Canada Research Chair & Prof in Applied Mathematics and Global Change, at the University of British Columbia. I am similarly fortunate in being a University Fellow at Resources for the Future, a Washington DC think tank and an Adjunct Professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Engineering & Public Policy.

I received my BSc in Physics (focussing on quantum optics) from Edinburgh University (1980) and my PhD in physics (focussing on integrated energy systems) from the Cavendish Laboratories at the University of Cambridge (1984).

I see the world in terms of interacting social, economic and environmental systems.  I am interested in how these systems create and respond to challenges over time.  Most of what I have focused on is at the interface of technology, energy, the environment, public health and public policy.

I have studied a wide range of topics ranging from how to choose electricity generation technologies under technological and regulatory uncertainty to different determinants of malaria in the world. I have been a lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and also on the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. I am very pleased to have been able to have helped dozens of Master and PhDs complete their theses.  You can read the titles and abstracts of many of these studies in the pages the follow.

Highlights of some non-academic pursuits:

  • In 1989 I was awarded a Warren Weaver Fellowship by the Rockefeller Foundation where I co-designed the program for global environmental leadership LEAD with Tim Weiskel.
  • In 1995 our team at Carnegie Mellon, in recognition of its development of the Integrated Assessment approach, was awarded one of two NSF awards for the study of the Humans Dimensions of Global Change. Our sister institution was led by Elinor Ostrom at U of Indiana.
  • In 2004 James Tansey and I co-founded the non-profit Offsetters Climate Neutral Society.  Offsetters made the 2010 Olympics climate neutral and has been a pioneer in novel strategies for real GHG reductions in British Columbia.
  • In 2005 Ian Thomson, Doug Hooper, Adam Levine, Bob Biagioni and I founded the Canadian Bioenergy Corporation.  Our philosophy was to promote the development of renewables fuels with real GHG reductions and no impacts on food prices (cf. corn based ethanol).  Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, this was a far larger challenge than our $20M of funding could accomplish.
  • In 2007 Farrokh Elmieh, Mehran Farmanara and I co-founded  Green-Erg Technologies Ltd where we try to promote technologies that reduce energy and GHGs by >50% are economical without public funding and compatible with social and individual values. We are currently in the process of building the first off-grid biomass based community energy system (3MWth, 720kWe) in Canada at Tsay Keh Village north of Williston Lake in Central British Columbia.
  • In 2012 we founded HydroRun a company that was developing a novel hydrokinetic device to generate electricity from the energy of free-flowing streams. Our goal was dispatchable renewable electricity generation at competitive prices to the grid.  Sadly, the project was ended because the Province of British Columbia did not know how to classify this new invention and certify its benign nature.


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