Christophe Owttrim

Introduce yourself... 

I am an alumnus of the Mechanical Engineering program at the University of Alberta (2016) and I am currently pursuing a Master's of Science in Mechanical Engineering. I am passionate about the convergence of technology, economics, and policy, particularly when it comes to finding solutions for the climate crisis. I started in the power sector but since then have gained experience working with emerging clean technologies and practices across many sectors and areas. 

What are you researching and what do you hope comes out of your research?

My work is focused on understanding the role energy efficiency technologies can have in reducing the emissions of industrial sectors in Canada and beyond. We know that efficiency and fuel switching are two critical elements to achieving a low-emissions industry, but there isn't a lot of consensus on how much of a role they can play and how fast we can implement them. I hope that my research can inform technology development, government policy, and industrial decision-making regarding the true potential of these options so that we can all work towards an optimal low-emissions future.

How did presenting a Three Minute Thesis (3MT) help explain your research to the public?

I found the exercise of putting together a 3MT to be incredibly valuable by forcing me to consider how to explain my work and its relevance without relying on jargon and technical expertise. My thesis topic is relatively esoteric and not many people have a strong understanding of what modelling of energy systems and emissions actually is. Through the 3MT format, I gained perspective on the real relevance of my work to the public, and a better appreciation of how even a relatively obscure topic can become compelling and engaging with the right analogies and explanations.

What inspires you to do research?

I am inspired by the urgent challenge of climate change and our need to challenge the "business-as-usual" approach to our technologies, systems, and economy. I love exploring how complex systems work and imagining how they might be improved in the future, and my research combines both those elements. Beyond that, I believe that this degree and the experience I gain through my thesis will be essential to my future career aspirations. 

What are three keywords important to your 3MT?

energy, emissions, roadmap

How has your research changed during COVID-19?

I am fortunate that much of my research can be completed with a desktop computer and an internet connection. However, I have certainly faced challenges such as more limited interactions with my supervisor and research group without the ability to meet in person. 

If you had to dedicate your research to anyone from the past, present, or future, who would it be and why?

I would dedicate it to my parents, who have fostered my passion for research and science throughout my life.