Check out profiles of current and past lab people.
Natalia Bekirsky, MES Candidate
I am in my second year of the Masters of Environmental Studies program at York University. I was drawn to the lab by its comprehensive approach to energy transitions, which fit very well with my research interests in renewable energy and energy justice. Before beginning at York, I completed my Honours Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and Archaeology at the University of Toronto. My environmental education and research path began with a broader interest in climate change and environmental justice, and throughout my years of study, I have been drawn to the topic of just energy transitions. I also have interests and work experience in environmental education and education broadly. During my undergraduate studies I had the privilege of working for an environmental education NGO, and I also spent much of my time volunteering as the director of a conflict resolution charity.
In the lab, I am excited to be doing research with Professor Hoicka on decentralization of energy systems, renewable energy, and energy justice and community involvement. I look forward to continuing this and related research during the next year of my studies. In my free time, I enjoy running, reading, and exploring Toronto.
Jessica Conroy, MES 2020
I am a second year MES student, specializing in environmental planning. I enrolled in the MES planning program with the hope to work in planning sustainable, healthy, equitable, livable communities. I joined the Social Exergy & Energy Lab because I am interested in the intersection of energy and planning, especially how transitioning to low-carbon and renewable energy systems will impact the landscape. I am excited to work with Christina as my major paper supervisor to study issues around land use and energy density; rising energy demand and integration of variable renewables; spatial design implications of urban versus rural renewable landscapes; and ensuring a just and democratic energy transition toward locally-oriented energy ownership and governance.
I completed my undergraduate Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Urban Studies (social sciences department) with a minor in Business Administration from York University in June of 2017. Two courses I took during my degree (Sustainable Urbanism and Green Business: Environmental Challenges) particularly sparked by interest in environmental issues, especially climate change mitigation and adaptation, and attracted me to environmental planning. Transforming the energy sector is a key part of climate change mitigation, which is why I wanted to focus my major research paper on planning for low-carbon energy. After my undergraduate degree, I worked for over a year in real estate appraisal, where I furthered my knowledge of land use planning regulations and learned about the market functions of development in the built environment. I recently completed an internship over the summer at the Canadian Urban Institute (CUI) where I did research and reporting for various projects including a smart city energy guide and municipal climate adaptation plan. I am currently working part-time for the Township of King in the Parks, Recreation & Culture department where I am assisting with various environmental stewardship plans, programs and events. In my spare time I enjoy hiking, camping, singing, piano and hockey. You can also find me on LinkedIn.
Maria-Louise McMaster, MES 2020
I am a first year graduate student in the MES program at York University. Presently, my research area of concentration is in low-carbon energy systems. I joined the Master’s program to learn more about the complexities of energy transitions and socio-technical systems. My objectives in this program are to gain a strong understanding of how energy systems and communities interact, and how technological and social innovations are successfully embedded in communities. My participation in Social Exergy & Energy Lab has allowed me to engage with new ideas and ways of thinking about energy and energy systems, as well as the opportunity to learn from fellow students. I am also working as a research collaborator with the Global Footprint Network, learning the production process for the National Footprint Accounts and assisting in a comprehensive literature review of the Ecological Footprint indicator.
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Interdisciplinary Studies in Aquatic Resources from St. Francis Xavier University. In this degree, I built a strong theoretical and practical foundation in Economics and Environmental Studies, with a particular focus on water resource issues. Learning about the relationship between the environment and the economy sparked my interest in issues of sustainability and GHG emissions abatement in Canada. The energy sector is large component of Canadian GHG emissions and is an important area of research to contribute our efforts towards climate change mitigation.
Yuxu Zhao, MES 2020
I am a second-year Masters in Environmental Studies student at York University. My area of concentration is climate change mitigation and adaptation, with specific int
erests in low-carbon energy transitions. I joined the Social Exergy & Energy Lab as a research assistant. I am assisting with the development and distribution of surveys to employers and employees of organizations that provide energy services in Ontario. I am also responsible for data collection and data management for this project. The purpose of this research is to identify the relationship between pro-environmental behaviors and system innovations in energy transitions.
Prior to studying at York University, I completed my Masters of Arts in International Studies at Johns Hopkins University -Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American Studies. In this degree, I gained the intellectual framework and analytic skills required to address global issues, with a particular focus on energy, resources, and environmental issues. This experience inspired me to pursue research at York University to deepen my understanding of energy and environmental concerns and threats and to explore possible solutions to these daunting challenges.
Devon Calder, MES 2016
For my MES degree I had the privilege of working with Dr. Christina Hoicka in several capacities. Professor Hoicka was my academic advisor, major research supervisor, Graduate Assistant (GA) placement supervisor, and instructor for two courses.
Professor Hoicka guided me through the implementation of my Plan of Study (POS). I wanted to better understand the theories and practices of climate change mitigation and adaptation, and the theories and practice of community energy planning for achieving a low carbon future. Dr. Hoicka helped me achieve those goals.
As Dr. Hoicka’s GA I conducted research, analysis, and synthesized findings relating to sustainable energy technologies, policies, and projects.
Dr. Hoicka was my instructor for ENVS 6121: Community, Energy, and Planning and an Independently Direct Study (IDS) [ENVS 6599]. I enjoyed ENVS 6121 tremendously as it enlightened me on the complexities of how communities obtain and use energy, and the barriers and opportunities for achieving a low carbon future. My IDS with Dr. Hoicka was also great due to the freedom allotted to me to investigate a topic I was deeply interested in. For the IDS I answered critical questions to better understand energy production and consumption spatially and analyzed spatial analysis methodologies that could be employed in planning sustainable urban energy systems.
Dr. Hoicka helped hone my research focus to a clearly articulated topic for my MRP. For my paper I present the first stage of a decision support system that utilizes spatial analysis via a geographic information system to identify ideal locations for harvesting sewer wastewater heat for offsetting natural gas use for space and water heating.
Alicia Campney, JD/MES 2019
I am in my second year of study in the JD/MES program at Osgoode Hall Law School and York University, and have an Honours B.A. in Political Science with a Minor in Psychology. I am working as a Graduate Assistant on Dr. Hoicka’s “Sustainable Energy Transitions: Linking Pro-Environmental Behaviour to System Innovation” research. Additionally, I currently sit on the Affordable Housing Committee at York University which is seeking to establish more affordable rental housing for students, university staff and the surrounding community on York’s surplus lands. I also mentor first-year law students through the Osgoode Mentor Program.
I am very interested in climate change mitigation and adaptation in addition to social justice. I am pursuing a career practicing Environmental Law and am interested in its intersection with Indigenous Law, especially in the context of Environmental Justice. As such, my MES area of concentration is climate change mitigation and adaptation, one component of which involves exploring how we can mitigate climate change without further disadvantaging Canada’s most vulnerable peoples and communities. Working as a Graduate Assistant on Dr. Hoicka’s research has and continues to enhance my understanding of the energy sector and how critical innovation is to a successful energy transition – both of which are integral to the study of climate change mitigation.
Dr. Runa Das
I am a faculty member in the Doctor of Social Sciences program. My background includes degrees in Psychology (undergraduate and Masters), and Environmental Applied Science and Management (PhD). My research examines the assessment and practice of environmental and social sustainability and I approach these areas as overlapping, comprised of energy systems, energy and natural resources management, climate change mitigation and adaptation, environmental education, social and health equity, behaviour change, and community resilience. I examine these in an interdisciplinary manner given the range of important disciplinary lenses that can be used to examine both and due to my disciplinary background—my previous degrees have been invaluable in navigating the intersection between people, the built environment, and the natural environment.
Through my PhD thesis, I sought to better understand individuals and households and their relationships with energy. In particular, my dissertation focused on learning about the characteristics that influence household energy use and what people know and feel about energy and energy-related issues, as well as their energy-related behaviours. Thus my work had two main research themes: the first comprised understanding patterns of household energy use while the second related to energy literacy; both required advanced quantitative and qualitative methodological approaches. My passion for quantitative and qualitative methodology also extends to teaching, for which I have several years of experience as a course instructor and teaching assistant. When I am not working I can be found hiking, camping, or enjoying spending time with my very funny dog, Yogi.
Dr. Rachana Devkota, post-doctoral research associate, EDI in the Net Zero Carbon Economy project
I am conducting research on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) in the Net Zero Carbon Economy (NZCE) in collaboration with McConnell Foundation.
Previously, I was an Alex Trebek Research Fellow in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Environment at the University of Ottawa AI + Society Initiative. I conducted research on social innovation (such as evaluation of living laboratories), agricultural digitalization innovations, and specifically policy initiatives in Canada, for their ability to foster small farmers and environmental sustainability.
I completed my PhD at the University of Guelph, Canada, in Rural Studies with a focus on small farm mechanization policy and gender analysis from the responsible research and innovation perspectives. Part of my PhD research was funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), which awarded me the David and Ruth Hopper and Ramesh and Pilar Bhatia Canada Research Fellowship in 2017, given to the top female candidate nationally amongst doctoral candidates. I have completed a M. Sc. in Agricultural Economics from India, with a focus on statistics and vegetable marketing. I completed my undergraduate education also in agricultural science (with a major in agricultural economics) from Nepal.
My research interests lie within responsible research and innovation, evidence-based policy research and advocacy and sustainable international development with a strong commitment to advancing social and gender justice. I carry deep knowledge and understanding of international gender issues with more than 10 years of field level work experience around South Asia, Europe, and North America. I hold strong expertise on conducting social research using quantitative and qualitative methodologies.
I am the lead author and co-author of 10 peer reviewed journal articles, 2 books and 12 book chapters.. I have published in international journals such as Geoforum and Sustainability and delivered talks in different parts of the world. I have experience in developed proposals, managing, coordinating, monitoring, and evaluation of international development and research projects in South Asia (Nepal, India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka), North America (Canada and US), Europe (Norway and the Netherlands) and in Africa (Ethiopia and Kenya).
Julianna Felendzer, JD/MES Candidate
I am in my third year of the JD/MES program at Osgoode Hall Law School and York University. I was drawn to this program because I am interested in the intersection of the energy transitions and the law. I found that this point of intersection focuses heavily on people’s well-being and helping people. This interest in people is rooted in my undergraduate degree at McMaster University where I majored in Classics with a focus on Ancient Rome and minored in Philosophy.
While taking Professor Hoicka’s Community Energy Planning course (ENVS 6121) I found the words to describe my research interests. I found that community energy planning is one tool to help foster the transition to a low-carbon future and mitigate the harmful effects of climate change. Community energy planning fit my research interests because it is a malleable form of social organization that aims to improve people’s lives in the face of climate change.
My research focuses on energy transitions, innovation, energy poverty, participation, and policy. Joining Professor Hoicka’s lab helped nurture my interest in intellectual property law, which I believe plays a significant role in future low-carbon transitioning.
I joined Professor Hoicka’s lab in the summer of 2018 and during this time Professor Hoicka helped me hone my research skills. In my spare time I enjoy long distance running, indoor rock climbing, attending concerts, learning languages, and binge watching the Office.
You can find me on linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/juliannafelendzer/
Cristina Guido, MES 2017
My research applies a social-psychology perspective to residential energy consumption, which explores factors that drive energy choices and the behavioural programs that can influence conservation practices. A behavioural intervention that will be of particular focus in my research is feedback and the impact that it can have on household energy consumption.
My graduate assistant position with Professor Hoicka provided experience in communications, as I posted resources for students in Professor Hoicka’s blog. I worked for Prof. Hoicka during the development of a SSHRC grant that was successfully awarded to Professor Hoicka.
The Community Energy Planning (CEP) course was most valuable to me in the MES program. I enjoyed the structure of the course, with the variety of guest speakers and their practical career advice. Our class discussions de-constructed complex journal articles that contributed to our understanding of CEPs. The course allowed us to explore the intricate principles of CEPs and we learned that they are geographically constituted, context-specific and should be collaborative and cross-departmental.
Most recently, I’ve been the Town of Caledon’s energy management student for over a year, which is the longest term a student has had. The larger projects that I’ve worked on with the Town are: building benchmarking, O.Reg 397/11 reporting, sitting on meetings for the development of the Town’s Community Energy Plan and Sustainable Neighbourhood Retrofit Action Plan. Additionally, I have partnered with Professor Hoicka in the management of Women in Renewable Energy’s (WiRE) twitter page. I am also working to complete my major research paper.
Maral Jamali, MES 2015
I have recently graduated from York University with a master’s degree in Environmental Studies and Urban Planning. My area of concentration was sustainability and energy efficiency. I was fortunate to take Professor Hoicka’s ENVS 6121 Community Energy Planning in Fall 2014. I became very interested in energy efficiency and focused my research on environmental and economic implications of residential energy efficiency improvements. Being very resourceful, Dr. Hoicka recommended me to the City of Toronto to assist the Environment and Energy Division with evaluating their recently launched Home Energy Efficiency Loan Program (HELP). My internship with the City was so interesting that I focused my final Major Research Paper on evaluating The Home Energy Loan Program of The City of Toronto. My MRP was selected as an Outstanding Graduate Research Paper and was also shared with the City of Toronto.
You can find Maral on LinkedIn.
John Lau, MES 2019
Under the supervision of Professor Hoicka, I had graduated from the MES program in 2019. I am currently a Clean Energy Policy Analyst at Natural Resources Canada. My current responsibilities include coordinating inter/intragovernmental reporting on climate change policy, conducting ad-hoc clean energy research and policy analysis, and helping chart the pathway to Canada’s new 2050 net-zero ambition. I also manage the general operations of a series of badminton facilities across Canada and I will complete a business certificate at Harvard Business School Online by 2020.
My MRP evaluated the effectiveness of the energy efficiency policies that targeted buildings in the cities of Toronto and Calgary. Policies were evaluated through a multi-level policy mix analysis. Under the experienced guidance of Professor Hoicka, I was able to assemble and analyze an original set of data to achieve my MRP objectives. Professor Hoicka’s patience and mentorship had really elevated my writing skills and critical thinking – it is something that I would suggest for all MES students to be a part of if they can!
I became interested in energy policy during the third semester of my MES program, where I had the privilege of working at Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan) Energy and Environment Policy Division as an Intern Policy Analyst. Throughout this period, I also volunteered at Friends of the Earth Canada (FoE) as a Researcher. At FoE, I investigated international environment and energy justice issues and synthesized findings onto infographics and publications to support awareness campaigns and litigation efforts.
I took Professor Hoicka’s Fundamentals in Energy Efficiency, and Community and Energy Planning courses. In these courses, Professor Hoicka stimulated passionate discussions and contextualized topics with anecdotes based on her immense personal expertise and experiences. These courses are particularly enjoyable because the readings were meaningful, of impressive quality, and state-of-the-art. Professor Hoicka’s multidisciplinary experiences and interest in social justice were also thoughtfully expressed in these courses.
I hold an undergraduate degree in Law and Society (Honors) from York University. Other academic accomplishments include a Professional Certificate in Public Administration and Law and a Certificate in Practical Ethics. In 2019, I was awarded the Alectra Inc. Graduate Award in Sustainable Energy. Other fun facts about me include: I am the Manager of two 2020 Olympic athletes and of a Canadian National Team Coach, I enjoy landscape photography, and I ski and hike regularly.
Sohrab Pathan, MES 2018
As an MES student here at York University, my area of concentration is community energy planning, renewable energy and sustainability. I am deeply interested in Canada/Ontario energy policy and aspire to be an energy policy analyst/researcher upon graduation. I recently joined Social Exergy & Energy Lab as a Research Assistant (RA). As an RA, I am responsible for data collection and data management for an energy project that intends to statistically quantify the decision factors for non-adopters of energy retrofits in commercial properties.
Before I joined Social Exergy & Energy Lab, I was a Research Associate (Economist) at Institute of Social and Economic Research at University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA). My work at Alaska made me interested in rural and arctic energy policies. While I was building financial models for renewable energy projects located in various communities in Alaska, I decided to further my knowledge of energy policies and enrolled myself in the MES program.
Along with renewable energy I am also interested in ecological economics and resilience theories. One of my recent projects allowed me to statistically quantify and create indices for resilience factors of various communities in South Sudan. In another recent project, I was responsible to develop an economic model for green infrastructure (rain garden/bio-retention facility) in Mount Albert, Ontario.
To know more about me please check my LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sohrab-pathan/
Katarina Savic, MES 2020
My two passions in academically and personally are environmental and Indigenous issues in Canada. Throughout my studies, I have become solution-oriented in the climate change discussion and have become especially interested in community energy planning. My overall guiding research question is – how can we plan for the energy transition? This question is what brought me to the MES Planning program and I am expected to graduate in April 2020. Professor Christina Hoicka is supervising my research about governance structures of Indigenous-owned clean energy projects in Canada and I am supporting her on other projects as well.
I completed my International Bachelors of Arts in Political Science & Business at York University in 2015. After graduation, I began to work in the Research department at the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) producing grey literature to influence Canadian policy and support Indigenous business owners. In this role I learned valuable project management and government relations skills. During my master’s program, I continue to work at CCAB part-time, practice my French, and volunteer at a political organization in my riding.
Brandon Slopack, MES 2016
I am a graduate of the MES program. My area of concentration was ‘Land Use Planning and Sustainability.’ My areas of study were ‘Land Use Planning’, ‘Community Energy Planning’, and ‘Transportation Planning’. The choices within these three spheres and the ways in which they interact can greatly influence our carbon footprint. Based on these interests I developed a two-part Major Research Project. The first part a was an ‘ Introductory Guide to the Relationship between Electric Vehicles and the Electricity Grid’ and the second part looked at ‘Identifying Barriers and Methods to Enabling a Transition to Electric Vehicle Infrastructure in Ontario.’
Taking Professor Hoicka’s Community Energy Planning course was a ‘eureka’ moment for me in the MES program. I discovered that there was a field of study that covered a wide range of sustainability and energy related topics, ideas, and technologies. When carefully analyzed they could help communities improve their energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and produce sustainable energy solutions through the form of community energy plans. The class format was such that pre-class we would read interesting and current journals articles, then in class we would have thoughtful discussions based on the articles and often see a great guest presentation. This was bookended by a final project in which each class member helped an organization answer a CEP related research question. For instance, I was assigned to help the Ministry of Energy determine what the challenges and barriers to implementing community energy plans were, and suggest solutions.
Susan Morrissey Wyse, MES 2018
I am a recent graduate of the MES program at York University and will be beginning my PhD within FES in September, 2019. The focus of my research is related the social impacts of energy. Specifically, my research explores how communities participate in and benefit from local low-carbon energy initiatives, and questions whether local initiatives are living up to their claims of “community”-focused approaches. Prior to my time at York, I received my BA (honours) with a double major in Political Science and Communication Studies from Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Through my participation in Social Exergy & Energy Lab, I received valuable mentorship that moved beyond a simple focus on completion of the MES program. Through this mentorship, my major research paper, ‘By and For Local People’: Assessing How Canadian Local Energy Plans Contribute to the Ideals of Community Energy, was featured in York’s “outstanding paper series”. Additionally, in collaboration with Professor Hoicka, I recently presented this research at the Network of Early Career Researchers in Sustainability Transitions (NEST) conference in Portugal and have also submitted the research as a manuscript to an academic journal for publication.
Additionally, as a research assistant within the lab, I worked on a variety of data-driven research projects, which have significantly strengthened my research skills and knowledge of qualitative and quantitative research methods. These projects were related to provincial and territorial experiences with community-based energy as well as the landscape of services available to energy users and communities in the Ontario context. In addition to this research, during my time at York I was also employed as a research intern with Community Energy Knowledge – Action Partnership (CEKAP), for whom I authored two reports concerning the uptake of heat pump technologies in Ontario. I look forward to re-joining the York student community in September and to continuing my academic journey within Social Exergy & Energy Lab.
If you’d like to read more details about my research, visit my profile on Linkedin.