Heather Semotiuk talks about fourth year

A day in the life

Heather Semotiuk talks about fourth year

Heather Semotiuk_environmental science_profile_37226 (2)

Halifax is really interesting, and there are lots of great opportunities here. The Environmental Science program has a strong marine focus, which is fascinating. And being able to walk by the ocean at Point Pleasant Park is great.

Combining interests in sustainability with international development

Before Heather Semotiuk came to Dal, she knew she wanted to do international development studies (IDS). But she also knew she loved science, and wasn’t sure whether she’d end up in a science- or arts-related degree.

Browsing around for development programs, Heather found Dal’s IDS program site. “I discovered I could combine IDS with Environmental Science,” she says. “I saw that and I said, ‘That’s what I want to do!’”

This term, she’s taking the honours class in Environmental Science, as well as Introductory Spanish, a Biology class called Political Ecology, and an IDS class called Development is Happiness.

“It’s one of my favourite classes,” Heather smiles. “It looks at switching from thinking of the gross domestic product (GDP) as the sole development indicator, to applying research on how happy people are, in both developed and developing countries, as an indicator of development.”

She says her own happiness is measured by spending time with family and friends, enjoying the challenges of university, and feeling that she’s making a positive contribution to the world. And in her activities outside of class, she has plenty of opportunities to do just that.

“I’ve gotten really involved with a variety of different programs,” she says. These days, most of her extracurricular energy is focused on being president of the Dal chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB). “You don’t have to be an engineer to join.”

As president, Heather plans the executive meetings and heads fundraising efforts that send students to developing countries, where they help apply an engineering mindset to development issues. “The Junior Fellowship position allows students to give a value add to existing programs,” Heather explains. “One student last year was working with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture in Ghana, creating communication links between farmers and the department.”

And speaking of farming: Heather’s honours project involves quantifying the carbon footprint made by a local small-scale organic farm. “I’m determining the carbon emissions resulting from growing greenhouse tomatoes—how much energy is required to keep them at a certain temperature, and so on.”

“I’ve definitely become more aware of all these ideas through the Environmental Science program,” Heather says. “I definitely wouldn’t have known in first year what I wanted to research."