2021 Holiday Message from the SEE Director

December 08, 2021

As the year draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on 2021 as a time of unprecedented challenge, profound hope, and inspiring action.  The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to be front and center in our daily lives, presenting new challenges with each wave.  The realities of climate change have truly arrived at our front doors here in British Columbia, at a scale that is simply ferocious.

In meeting the challenges presented by the pandemic, I have been deeply moved and inspired by the ways in which our undergraduate and graduate students have mobilized to support each other.  In the early part of the year, when face-to-face interactions were still largely impossible, the SEE Student Society (SEESS) continued running numerous online events to keep their peers interacting, enjoying as much of a social life as was possible, and further building a sense of community.  I was also delighted to see the creation of the SEE Graduate Student Association (SEE GSA), which leapt into existence and provided our graduate students with a network of support, collegial interaction, and representation.  As the year moved on and some of the restrictions around in-person gatherings started to relax, SEE students were at the front of the line to plan, host, and join in-person events with safety as a first priority in every respect.

Throughout the year, I was also inspired by the actions of our faculty members and staff, within SEE and across the entire Faculty of Applied Sciences.  Despite an undeniable level of fatigue felt across the University, faculty and staff continued to innovate on a daily basis in the ways that courses were delivered and students were supported.  Creating a positive student experience was the common thread across a huge range of activities at all levels and in all roles.  It has been heartening to see the significant return to in-person instruction in the Fall term, which has brought with it such a deeply needed sense of normalcy and human contact.

Our external partners and community of support rose to the challenge and helped to lift us up as well.  Even if we couldn’t meet and interact in our usual ways, the level of engagement, collaboration, and investment in our students through scholarships and awards, Co-op placements, and mentorship was remarkable.

In facing the challenges that climate change presents, we have seen a renewed sense of urgency and importance in the research that our faculty members and graduate students undertake.  Despite the difficulties that the year presented, we have continued to grow our faculty complement and research programs in critical areas including clean transportation; advanced materials for energy systems; renewable hydrogen systems; smart grid power distribution; energy systems modeling and simulation; and water, energy and food security.

Our students have involved themselves on the front lines through their projects, community involvement, and Co-op work terms.  Our School has further established and reinforced our culture and commitments in adopting our mission statement: to inspire and foster transformative innovations in energy systems that benefit society and the natural environment through outstanding interdisciplinary education, research, collaboration, and engagement amongst a diverse and equitable community.

Most recently, the entire SFU community is mobilizing to provide support to those impacted by the devastating floods and mudslides across the Province.  In these most difficult times, we are seeing the best of people.

SEE has reached several important milestones in 2021, including the graduation of the first students from our MASc program.  Moving forward, 2022 will be a year of important milestones for the School as well, including the graduation of our first BASc students, a full accreditation visit from the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB), and ongoing development of academic programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.  Clearly some rest and rejuvenation are in order for all of our students, staff, faculty, and community of support, before picking up the challenge and opportunities that the new year will present!

I wish our entire community every happiness of the season.  Stay safe and well.


Kevin Oldknow, Ph.D., P.Eng.
Director and Associate Professor
School of Sustainable Energy Engineering
Simon Fraser University