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Next in the After Heriot’s spotlight, we have Dr Katie Logan (2012) who is an Energy Policy Researcher at University College Dublin, Ireland. Katie shares how Heriot’s nurtured her interests in sustainability and Environmental Sciences to get to where she is today.
Please get in touch if you wish to share your story ‘after Heriot’s’.
What is your current role?
I am an Energy Policy Researcher at University College Dublin, Ireland. My role brings together different areas of research on a range of topics to draw key insights and make recommendations for academics and policymakers on ways to reduce carbon emissions.
Recently, I have been working on a project reviewing current subsidies and grants to support the use of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and their planed phase out in other European countries. This will allow the Irish Government to decide whether or not they want to continue these subsidies or focus on a transition towards battery electric vehicles.
How did you get there?
In 5th year I was awarded a travel bursary through the Woman’s Royal Voluntary Service (now known as Royal Voluntary Service) which allowed me to volunteer through a charity called ‘Project India’ during the school summer holidays. I spent a month helping build a school and shop for a blind and deaf community near Kerala with sustainable, local materials. This opportunity allowed me to be fully immersed in a different culture and understand and learn what sustainability means.
In my final year of school, I was selected to speak to over 3,000 international delegates as part of the youth group at the ‘Plant Under Pressure’ conference in London. This conference focused on the global response to challenges within sustainability with speakers discussing their latest findings on climate change, environmental geo-engineering, international governance, oceans and biodiversity, global trade, development, poverty alleviation and food security. This conference opened my eyes to the interdisciplinary approaches needed to be taken to meet the sustainable development goals.
Both these experiences led me to choose subjects in my final year of school to pursue an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science at the University of Aberdeen This degree nurtured my interests and I joined societies like Childreach International who also undertook environmental work. My undergraduate degree combined a lot of difference courses including classes in chemistry, biology and geography which allowed me to understand the basics of this topic and why an interdisciplinary approach is required to address these challenges.
During my undergraduate degree, I was selected to participate in the universities international exchange programme and spent my third year studying in the USA. This allowed me to take classes in subjects I would not normally have chosen. One of these classes involved in a project focusing on staff travelling for conferences and this demonstrated that several staff members were often traveling independently in their own vehicles. Using this information, I was able to estimate the emission levels and potential savings if they had chosen other transport types or even car sharing. This project really grew my interested in ‘driving’ down emissions from the transport sector.
After completing my undergraduate degree, I applied and was selected to complete my PhD in Environmental Science. My research focused on the electrification of transport and this impact on the environment taking into consideration infrastructure changes, including electricity supply, and the related effects and trade-offs between greenhouse gas emission reductions, climate regulation and the potential impact upon ecosystem services. This research focused on the decarbonisation of both the transport and electricity sectors to allow the UK to meet their net zero emission reduction targets as part of the Paris Agreement. During this research I was awarded several travel grants, enabling me to spend time as a visiting researcher at Tsinghua University (China) and Kyoto University (Japan) to further my research. During these visits, I was able to understand how other countries are approaching challenges associated with low carbon transport and was able to draw conclusions on what lessons have been learned and what the UK can do to reduce emission levels from transport.
What are your most notable achievements?
In 2017, I applied and was selected to take part in the Climate Reality Leadership Programme in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This is a training programme run by former US vice president Al Gore who I was lucky enough to meet. This training programme allowed me to learn how to give ‘ted talk’ style presentations to a range of audiences, including climate change deniers, and appreciate the climate perspective from a global viewpoint. The lessons learnt during this programme have been invaluable in developing my confidence in public speaking and presenting climate change science to a range of academic and non-academic audience through climate change week. I have also presented my PhD research at a Royal Society conference which is probably the most prestigious event I have spoken at to date.
What are your memories of Heriot’s?
I have so many.
I will always remember primary five maths with Mr Swierkot who would have the entire class take part in a speed times table square challenge on Fridays. He would have a leader board and the top three students would get a certificate. I never managed first place, but it brought out my competitive edge and my math skills really benefited from this. I was saddened to hear of his death a few years ago.
I always enjoyed the time I spent at the Goldenacre particularly taking part in the athletics team. My favourite memories were also playing on the S6 hockey team coached by Mr Hector who always gave us great motivational speeches at half time along with our orange slices.
Tell us your two ‘takeaways’ from your Heriot’s days:
The Heriot’s motto ‘I distribute cheafullie’ has stuck with me since finishing school in 2012 as I try to continue to give back to society and community through my work in the environmental sector.
I always feel we were taught from the earliest opportunity that being kind makes a difference. From taking daffodils over the road to the patients in hospital or helping the primary ones lean to read. The last year has been a challenge for so many people that I hope I am still making a difference.
Any top tips for current pupils when planning their future?
Whilst in school I had a great 4th year but didn’t do well during my 5th year highers and was asked at my careers session to consider if university was right the path for me. I doubted myself and was at a real low. Thankfully I was surrounded by some really great teachers (like Mr Ramage, Mr Seaton, Mr Lowe, Mr Porteous and Mrs Hughes) who helped me find my passion and who believed in me and helped me plan, choose and pass the right subjects in sixth year to achieve a great university place.
So, my advice is, if you don’t get the grades you want stay calm, talk to teachers you feel you can learn from and don’t ‘throw in the towel’ because there will be an alternative route that gets you there in the end. I could not have imagined achieving a PhD at 25 when in 5th year!