Profile in Sustainability – Yung Nguyen

Headshot2.PNGYung Nguyen | Class of 2014 | B.S. Environmental Engineering, minor in Urban Studies and Planning

Why is sustainability important to you? 

I was born in Vietnam and grew up there until I was 10. Even though I lived in Sai Gon, the old capital of Southern Vietnam, much of where I lived was underdeveloped and sidewalks were separated by canals of streams, wastes, and rainwater runoffs. Flood, blackouts, and contaminated water supply – they were no stranger to my life.  I have seen people living in huts where decaying woods and leaves are holding up the structure. I have seen trash and blackened water flow next to a 4-story apartment’s bricks. Even though things are a lot better now as my hometown is more developed, I believe climate change can quickly make them almost permanent or long enough to be a hazard to many people’s livelihood. I still have a lot of family in Vietnam, so I do not want to see climate change destroy their lives.  Another strong influence is my spiritual origin that changed my attitude toward animal agriculture and silent suffering of billions of sentient beings being murdered every year for flesh. Often, I felt helpless and powerless to see such unnecessary suffering that these intelligent beings have to go through.

Sustainability has many branches, but I think the mission in any sustainability line of work- whether it be water work, waste management, resource management, energy efficiency, and etcetera – will always have a humble purpose of protecting someone or something. From my personal journey, I knew I wouldn’t be here without the help of people who cared about others without knowing who the others are personally.  When I was thinking about what I want to do with my life, I wanted to be in a profession to pay it forward, protect my family, and protect those who didn’t have a voice. And sustainability was it!

Could you talk about your current work at DNV GL and how it helps to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals?  

At DNV GL, formerly known as KEMA, I currently work as an engineer in the Sustainable Buildings & Communities (SBC) group. My business unit is specialized in building science services and large-scale planning studies such as climate action plan, resiliency planning, and energy planning. We work with cities, developers, and design teams to come up with strategies to attain the highest sustainable goals. My team works on delivering at least 50 Platinum Certified LEED projects and some of the first few net-zero energy buildings.

I am one of the technical support staff where my skill sets are in energy modeling, building science, and data analytics. On a daily basis, I support the energy modeling work and create complex calculations to inform a decision. I enjoy bringing visualization of solutions to the table and supporting my senior co-workers with quality deliverable to clients.

The most challenging projects that I have worked on at DNV GL are international projects where there are economic and social issues that first world countries are not used to. However, I feel very fortunate to be involved in these projects and apply the best practices I’ve learned to recommend solutions. Most often the long-term goals such as UN Sustainable Development Goals are translated or integrated into our work where we show clients other key metrics that are not usually considered in the equation. I am very much inspired by my team members who really believe the solutions we deliver and having the data to show for it.

My company also shows its dedication to innovation by investing a portion of our earnings toward research and development. As a company, DNV GL produces Energy Transition Outlook Report as well as A Safe & Sustainable Future roadmap report updated every few years or so, where our research team laid out the vision for the future with UN Sustainable Development Goals in mind. Our team works together with our forward-thinking customers very hard every day to bring these visions to life.

Could you talk about your involvement with the student organizations at UCSD? What projects/campaigns were you a part of?

Out of my student org involvement, the most memorable experience was being the outreach coordinator/lead for Engineers without Borders. While admittedly I had no idea what I was doing, I had help from Saura Naderi, who now works at Qualcomm Think-a-Bit STEM program, as well as anyone who was there at every outreach meeting *shout out to OG squad*.

Students working on outreach project

Second Chance students working on an outreach project. 

We organized a group of volunteers to deliver a lesson plan with students at the Second Chance Program who works with incarcerated youths and even took them to UC San Diego for a campus tour. The project later on expanded to building an actual aquaponic system with the students on their community farm. While being an outreach coordinator didn’t seem like it was applicable to my future engineering position, this experience was a great blessing as I connected with many friends and learned a great deal in creating a curriculum. Recently, I was working on creating an energy efficiency curriculum for the Chula Vista Elementary School District with the City of Chula Vista. By working with students and the outreach community previously, it has helped me to think from the student’s perspective and create the best product as possible.

 

Secondly, I really appreciated the experience of starting a student organization back then (Association of Energy Engineers – UCSD chapter). With AEE, my friends and I were able to participate in a Department of Energy Better Building Case Competition. With the help of campus resources and our amazing treasurer, Michelle Tang, our team traveled to Washington D.C., competed with 27 other universities, and brought back the “Most Innovative Award”. It caught us by surprise, and that feeling still left a smile on my face.

 

PEACE group on meatout day

PEACE group on meatout day.

Third, I truly met a lot of inspiring human beings from PEACE (People for the Elimination of Animal Cruelty through Education). We worked together to hand out free vegan foods on library walk once a year on MeatOut Day to show people how delicious vegan foods are. PEACE also worked very hard to get an all-vegan restaurant on campus among other grassroots activities. I remember I made 170 vegan cupcakes one year and worked at a food booth during SunGod to bring vegan options to the festival. A lot of my role models were my peers from this group who continue to be torch-carrier of kindness and sustainability in different corners of the earth.

 

All in all, I think these involvements really shaped who I am and have a special place in my heart.

What’s your graduation year, major(s)/minor(s)? 

 I graduated in 2014 with Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering and a minor in Urban Studies and Planning. For my technical track, I took static, dynamics, control series, and SIO classes in hydrology and ArcGIS.

I often get asked whether what I learned in school is useful in my current work and what I would recommend. The short-ish answer: Yes, usually the classes will be useful if you can include what you learned and illustrate it in your project portfolio. Thus, I would recommend practical classes outside of your standard curriculum, such as classes taught by industry leaders and/or classes that offer training in a particular software or particular skill set. My thinking has become more pragmatic as an engineer, so by finding classes that apply “learning by doing” really worked for me.

Profile in Sustainability – Carly Bonnell

IMG_0651.jpgCarly Bonnell | Critical Gender Studies & Sociology | Class of 2004 

How did you first become interested in sustainability and are there any particular aspects of sustainability you are most interested in? (e.g. reducing waste, saving water, etc).
I was the 5th-grader in school who developed a recycling program for their science project. I grew up on an organic farm in Fallbrook and have enjoyed a simpler, more rural life living close with the earth.

I’m a UC San Diego and UCLA alumnae. Before coming back to UC San Diego to work, I was able to serve as the co-chair of the Green Committee, a program at SDSU Research Foundation. This allowed me to see how work cultures can be increasingly flexible in integrating and changing practices to prioritize saving our earth. We were able to enact policies to stop the purchase of wasteful products, such as K-cups & straws, promoted recycling programs and reducing waste in office spaces, as well as organizing clean-up days where we would clean-up our outdoor work environments together as staff.

Now, I am so excited to be working for UC San Diego in the School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry’s Alzheimer’s Caregiver Study, as well as serving as the Treasurer for the Staff Sustainability Network (SSN)! I am committed to assisting UC San Diego in our goal of Zero Waste by 2020 and increasing SSN’s continued impacts on campus.

I see sustainability as intrinsically tied to well-being and quality of life. I am increasingly concerned with issues of global warming, overpopulation, overconsumption, and a throw-away type culture. I have always held strong values of commitment to protect our earth and conserve our environments. As a mental health researcher, I see everyday how much our physical environments affect our mental health; this relationship is very literal to me and drives my passion to create a better world — one that has moment-to-moment intention and respect for our planet.

Also, I am an aspiring Vegan and am very interested in the ways in which intentional living, including plant-based and cruelty-free living, can create a more sustainable planet for all 🙂

Could you talk about your involvement as the Treasurer of SSN?
As Treasurer for SSN at UC San Diego, I am responsible for the fiscal activities of the group, mostly tied to membership, development and operations. I provide general accounting for our network and produce monthly reports and cash flow forecasting feedback about our funds. I am part of the Executive Board at SSN and contribute to planning meetings, coordination of our services, as well as general outreach for our awesome network of committed members!

What are some of the projects/events that happen with SSN?
SSN holds a general meeting each month for our members and any UC San Diego staff interested in promoting sustainability on campus. We have presentations, tours and provide a general space for staff committed to creating improved impacts on our environment.

We also provide funds available to staff for special projects on campus or in their specific departments, and we also work with larger initiatives on campus, such as Zero Waste 2020 to help UC San Diego reach our sustainability goals.

Profile in Sustainability – Geoffrey Alves

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Geoffrey Alves | Bachelor’s Degree Environmental Engineering | Class of 2017

What does sustainability mean to you?

 To me, sustainability is something that is much more easily talked about than actually implemented. While at UC San Diego, I took several classes on environmental challenges, climate policy, and climate science. In all of these classes, it became obvious that climate change was rooted in anthropogenic desires to progress in the world, and that sustainability has become a hot topic in response to climate change. Since the industrial revolution, we have used fossil fuels to feed a consumerist culture and now we are seeing the negative impacts of these actions in the form of global warming, pollution, rising ocean levels, droughts, species extinction, and more. While I’m sure there have been plenty of sustainably minded people in the past, I believe sustainability is more important now than it has ever been before. In a sense, sustainability is reactive to fixing the problems of climate change, but I believe it should also be seen as proactive in preventing further damage to Earth.

I know I am not a perfect model citizen of sustainability, but I did decide to pursue an environmental engineering degree in the hopes that I could someday make a positive impact in a sustainability-oriented career. I believe clean energy (especially at an industrial level) is at the center of changing the course of Earth’s climate, and I hope that my background in environmental engineering will allow to me to be a part of the clean energy movement. Sustainability is also highly societal in nature because it requires an open mind and willingness to consume less and recycle more. It is easy to predict how sustainability can change the course of Earth’s climate, but much harder to convince people to change their mindsets and lifestyles in order for these predictions to come true. However, college organizations like the Sustainability Office and Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW), as well as increasing climate politics and an emerging green energy sector give me confidence that we can come together collectively to create a more sustainable future that could rebalance Earth’s climate.

Could you talk about your involvement with ESW while at UC San Diego? What project(s) did you work on?

I was a member of Engineers for a Sustainable World for three years while attending UC San Diego. In Fall Quarter of my second year, I joined a brand new project, “Bottles to Models” (B2M for short), and I eventually became project co-leader for one year. The goal for B2M was to reduce campus waste by investigating the usefulness of reusing plastics, such as milk jugs used in coffee shops, as material for 3D printing. In the first year of the project, we spent a lot of time researching the feasibility of using milk jugs and the process for converting it into filament. The process included shredding down the plastic, feeding it into a heated filament extruder, and testing the recycled filament in our own 3D printer. While we were discussing our project with some of the 3D printing studios on campus, we discovered that they have bins of scrapped 3D prints that they didn’t have a use for. In my last meeting as project co-leader, we successfully shredded and extruded the scraps into new filament. Although we were never able to get to the milk jugs during my tenure, the project is ongoing with two new leaders and I am excited to see where it goes. We also created a long-term goal to start supplying our filament back to the 3D printing studios, and to reach out to local schools in order to promote STEM and sustainability.

ESW also provided great volunteering opportunities in sustainability. I was able to participate in a beach cleanup and Solarthon with Grid Alternatives. I think joining ESW was one of the best decisions I made in college because of the project experience, volunteering, but most importantly the people I met. I saw the organization grow every year in the number of projects and members, and it was very inspirational to see how passionate people could be for sustainability. As a national organization, ESW is truly fostering the future engineers that will lead the way in creating long-term sustainability solutions.

You work at Solar Turbines, a company committed to manufacturing reliable, efficient, low-emitting turbines. Could you talk about your work (or other projects at Solar Turbines) and how you see that fitting in with a sustainable future?

I will start off by stating that Solar Turbines (Solar) is an oil and gas company that does support the oil and gas industry, among others. However, here is my take on why we can lead the way in sustainability. First, our turbines run on natural gas, which burns much cleaner than coal, and we have SoLoNOx™ technology for even lower pollutant emissions. Currently, our turbines are necessary to fill in the gaps when renewable energy cannot meet power needs. Through emission monitoring, we are constantly researching and designing new technology to more efficiently burn natural gas. In my role as a hydromechanical design engineer, I will be a part of designing these fuel systems on customer turbine packages. Second, Solar has developed several technologies for sustainable power generation. Our combined heat and power packages reclaim exhaust heat from natural gas combustion to be used in applications, such as boilers, instead of using more fuel to boil water. We also have turbines that run on reclaimed methane-rich gas coming from landfills and wastewater treatment plants. Lastly, what I am most excited about and hope to contribute to is Solar’s energy storage. Essentially, we are already very good at creating frames and enclosures to house our turbines, so we decided to design a new package to fill with batteries. At up to a megawatt in energy storage, these packages can be deployed anywhere to support renewable energy sources. Due to the intermittency of renewables, energy storage will be critical to hold excess generated power for use during times when no power can be generated. Solar Turbines is an international industry leader in power generation, and with the backing of Caterpillar (American Fortune 100, Global Fortune 500), I believe we can have great influence in the future of sustainable power.

Preuss Interns at the UC San Diego Sustainability Resource Center

IMG_8578[1].JPGAs part of The Preuss School UCSD curriculum, seniors have to participate in service learning, research, and internship rotating between classes each trimester. Since the high school has a major focus on getting their students to attend a four-year university, they want students to have experience in each of those classes to become better prepared for higher education. For their internship class, students intern with different organizations on the UC San Diego campus.
Preuss seniors, Lesley Vo and Erick Ramos were assigned with the UC San Diego Sustainability Resource Center (SRC) during their internship class.  From September to November of 2017, Lesley developed a presentation on sustainable products, which she presented to the Sustainability Ambassadors.  Lesly also learned about the Green Labs Program at UC San Diego and researched different green labs programs at other universities.  During Erick’s internship from November 2017 to March 2018, he learned how to use SolidWorks so he could 3D print a model of Solar Chill, which is to be put on display in the SRC.  While interning at the SRC, Erick and Lesley (pictured above/left/right) offered to take multiple stacks of manila folders for their high school staff and teachers to reuse.