Rowing Through Environmental Engineering: Elizabeth's Experience

"When you’re an engineer, you have the opportunity and responsibility to work for a positive change in the world."

Elizabeth Liu

Elizabeth Liu

  • Degree: Bachelor of Applied Science
  • Program:
  • Campus: Vancouver
  • Year: Going into 3rd year (as of June 2023)

Why did you want to study engineering?

I always thought I’d end up in a STEM field. Engineering was certainly on my radar as I come from a family of engineers. However, I was under the impression that engineering was all about coding, which I wasn’t that interested in. However, I did some engineering camps at UBC, which opened my eyes to the breadth of areas encompassed by engineering. I had also thought it would be very rewarding to be a teacher, which is one reason I picked engineering over the sciences – I saw engineering as a way to use my knowledge to help people.

Engineering Camps at UBC

Why did you choose UBC?

UBC was my first choice. It’s close to home and has one of the best engineering programs in the country. I was also recruited to UBC to join the men’s rowing team as a coxswain for my first year.

Why Engineering UBC Rowing Team 

Novice Men's Program (Rowing)

How did you choose your specialization in environmental engineering?

I was originally interested in mechanical engineering. But during my exposure to different specializations in foundation year, I became interested in civil engineering, and, in particular, sustainable design and environmental green design. Given that our world is in a climate crisis, environmental engineering seemed like a good choice to try and make a difference.

 Foundation Year Environmental Engineering

What are some of the highlights of your education so far?

My first year was my first time learning in person after two years of COVID. Being in a classroom and working on projects with other students was fantastic.

The project work in both classes was done in small groups: some of the people I met in those groups are still my best friends.

I really enjoyed APSC 100 and 101, including the project where we built a cardboard chair and one where we had to design a rainwater collection system for a remote community. This last project also gave me insight into the type of work and impact you could have as an environmental engineer.

Another highlight was a project I worked on with three other students in ENVE 201 (Technical Communications for Environmental Engineering), where we simultaneously learned presentation skills while exploring topic in sustainability. We made recommendations on how to refurbish the Landscape Architecture Annex used by SALA students to make it more energy efficient, usable and comfortable by improving its HVAC system and potentially turning it into a living lab. Our professor Pam Wolf suggested we present this project and submit it for a grant to potentially turn our ideas into reality. Given some of my teammates are currently away on co-op, this might not be possible, and we haven’t looked into too many details yet. However, it’s still really cool that we got this opportunity, and it’s a great example of the opportunities that UBC Environmental Engineering can give you!

APSC 100 APSC 101 ENVE 201 Pamela Wolf 

Chair: Project for a course

Was engineering what you thought it would be?

First year was far harder than I initially expected. I had done IB in high school and thought I had strong time management skills. Engineering is a heavy course load, and I was balancing that with my involvement in rowing. So I needed to make some adjustments and change my expectations.

But engineering is not an impossible degree and it’s not like all you can do is school.

I’ve just completed my second year, I’m an assistant rowing coach for the men’s novice team and I continue to work part time throughout the school year. I’ve also done very well academically, making it onto the dean’s honour list this year.

What are your goals for the next two years?

I want to take advantage of all the technical electives open to me as an Environmental Engineering student. There are so many paths you can take in this degree and I’m hoping to take a range of electives to help me identify areas I am passionate about.

Technical Electives

Where do you see yourself going from here? How will you use your engineering degree?

As a young person, it’s frustrating to see how countries are making short-sighted decisions that impact our future. I want to make a difference.

Any advice for other students?

One of the best things about engineering is that it offers so many opportunities, from working more on the science side to being involved in policy.

If you’re not sure about what you want to study in university, engineering could be a good choice because it gives you so many options.

Anything else you want to add?

Environmental Engineering is a smaller program than some of the other engineering specializations, and I think that’s one of its main benefits. Even in second year, we’ve had a lot of face time with our professors and have had some very interesting discussions in class.

Elizabeth with her friends

Tell us about your favourite on-campus experiences!

Favourite class: ENVE 200/201/203 (Environmental Engineering Design and Decision Making, Technical Communications for Environmental Engineering, Environmental Engineering and Sustainability).
Favourite coffee shop on campus: Blue Chip
Favourite lunch spot: Sesame
Favourite study spot: Neville Scarfe building, in the basement rooms

UBC environmental engineering students taking a reading in an urban creek.

Environmental Engineering

As one of the most beautiful places anywhere, British Columbia is an ideal location to pursue an Environmental Engineering degree. UBC offers two Environmental Engineering Programs...

Environmental Engineering

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