"Students in the Spotlight" is a conversation series with members of the SofC Student Academy and Urban Leadership Fellowship program.
- What are you currently working on?
I am looking into low-cost ways in which the City of Toronto could quickly expand a city-wide network of protected bicycle lanes. Although I proposed this project before the onset of the pandemic, COVID-19 has in many ways accelerated the need for this important infrastructure. It also strikes me that the City has a narrow window of opportunity in which to enact these changes. As Winston Churchill once said, "We should never let a good crisis go to waste.
- What are your research and engagement interests?
I am a rising second year student in the Lassonde Mineral Engineering program and interested in efforts to update and modernize Canada's energy infrastructure. I am also very interested in the mining industry and, in particular, the responsible extraction of chemical elements like cobalt, which will be an essential input for the world's accelerating transition to clean energy.
- What has motivated your interests and journey?
As cliché as it might sound, I am largely motivated in my studies by a desire to provide a better life for my family. I am also very lucky to study at an institution like the University of Toronto (UofT), where I am free to pursue my own curiosity and dabble in a range of different subject matter.
- How do you hope to make difference?
I hope over the course of my life to love and support my friends and family and, perhaps in a very small way, contribute in my community to a more sustainable mode of living. If we destroy our planet (as we are currently on track to do), both our future and that of successive generations will be very difficult.
- What’s the latest project you have been working on and would like to share with the SofC audiences?
I am hoping to publish an op-ed later this summer on the importance of protected bicycle lanes and how - in light of climate change, the pandemic, and other changes occurring in our society - the expansion of this infrastructure now represents an extraordinary opportunity to enhance Toronto's transport network.
- As a student, researcher and/or activist, what have you learned from the pandemic and its global impact?
The global impact of COVID-19 underscores, to my mind, a number of challenges: i) the need for greater international public health cooperation and planning, ii) the run-away destruction of animal habitats and vulnerable ecosystems and iii) the relative fragility and inflexibility of national social welfare systems. At the same time, I think the pandemic also presents Canada and the world with an opportunity to reimagine and improve our ways of life.
- Please share with us your experiences at the SofC. How do you think being a member of the SofC Urban Leadership Fellowship and Academy Program has contributed to your scholarship and added to your experience as a student?
It has been a pleasure to study alongside such an interesting and enthusiastic group of students and researchers. At an institution as large as UofT, it has also been wonderful to find a smaller, more intimate community within the School of Cities (SofC).
- Any final words or message?
My sincerest thanks to Prof. Lo for all of her help and support and also to all of the dedicated SofC staff, thank you!
Michael is pursuing a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Civil & Mineral Engineering at the University of Toronto (UofT) and works on campus at the Centre for Quantitative Analysis & Modelling at the Fields Institute. Over the course of his degree, he hopes to specialize in Geological Engineering and Mining Finance before beginning a new career in mining and natural resources. Prior to his current studies, Michael earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Latin American Studies from Carleton College and a Master of International Affairs degree from Columbia University. He also worked for many years as an environmental policy researcher and grant manager for the World Bank in Brazil. His goal, in the future, is to merge the lessons of his past experience with his technical coursework at UofT to support the global mining industry in developing better, more sustainable business practices.