Luke McCarvill, a Shad2019 alum and active Reservist in the Royal Canadian Navy, wasn’t always enthusiastic about Engineering. He had always loved science and exploring new ideas but didn’t really see himself as someone interested in solving problems of infrastructure and building codes.

But a summer at Shad in 2019 changed his perspective. Luke had initially applied to the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) for their Chemistry program but switched into their Sustainable Design Engineering program in his first year.

“I started as a Chemistry student at UPEI, thinking I would go on to Pharmacy, but my experience at Shad showed me that engineering was about more than just buildings and bridges, and after one semester I decided the engineering program looked really neat, so I went for it and I’m so happy with that decision.”

The program at UPEI is focuses on bridging the gap between the science and the policy and economics of energy use and infrastructure, working to combine the principles of engineering with the three pillars of sustainability: people, planet, and profit. For Luke, understanding our social responsibility when planning infrastructure and urban development is essential if we are to effectively tackle the consequences of our climate crisis.

Luke has enriched his academic experience and understanding of the issues by studying abroad in 2022 at Arizona State University through a Fulbright Canada’s Killam Fellowship, representing Canada at the Canada-Japan Academic Consortium this year, and by competing and winning first place at the Atlantic Engineering Competition.  

Luke visiting the Grand Canyon during his fellowship at Arizona State University

Through his program, Luke has also been able to take on many important research roles, like his internship at the Energy Research Centre of Lower Saxony, in Goslar, Germany, where his research focus was lithium-ion batteries that are important for renewable energy. It was there that his passion for a certain aspect of sustainable engineering was sparked.

“During my research internship in Germany, one of my advisors gave a really interesting talk on thermal energy storage. Now I’m taking a course on energy storage, and I’m loving it, the practical side of how renewable energy gets implemented. Learning about the nuances of renewables, and the politics and economics of it, has made me really passionate about that area.”

Luke and his winning team at the Atlantic Engineering Competition

Having been named a 2024 Rhodes Scholar, Luke is excited to continue this area of study as a graduate student at the University of Oxford. He plans to complete two one-year course-based master’s programs: a Master of Science and Energy Systems and a Master of Science and Environmental Change and Management. He hopes to return to PEI when he’s done to start influencing the change he wants to see in his community by helping to address our changing energy needs and manage our environmental impact.

“I’m really interested in the intersection between politics and engineering, so I’d love to come back to PEI and try to make a difference in our energy grid through an organization like Maritime Electric. To make decisions about what kinds of projects get funded, like wind farms or energy storage technologies. Or changing the way that the electricity rate system works so that we can better utilize renewables. I feel like that’s where the problems lie in this sector. It’s not about whether we have the technology, it’s a problem with the communication between the science and government and the two working together to get us to where we need to be.”

Luke has already had the chance to explore the Oxford campus while visiting a current undergraduate at the university, a close friend who he met at Shad. Luke feels his life might have turned out differently if not for his time at Shad, crediting the program for getting him out of his comfort zone and helping him to feel more confident trying new things.

Luke exploring Oxford while visiting his friend from Shad

“I wouldn’t have tried engineering if not for Shad. I went into Shad so excited to get to work, it just seemed like something suited for me; it was interdisciplinary and involved a group of students who shared my interests. I met some of my best friends at Shad, connections I will have for life. I just can’t say enough good things about the network of amazing people from the program.”

Luke with friends at Dalhousie University for Shad2019

Luke chose to work as a Program Assistant (PA) at the ShadUPEI campus in 2021 and visited as a guest speaker in 2022. He hopes to work as a PA again this summer at the ShadDalhousie campus. “I love being able to go back to Shad and help to provide the current students with an amazing experience because of how much the program impacted me. I feel I owe it to them to pay it forward.”

As he heads off to continue his academic journey, Luke is grateful for the people who helped him to get to where he is. He believes that everyone has something to offer, and we sometimes learn the most from people and places that challenge us to get outside of ourselves and explore the unfamiliar.

Bridge Building Competition at Shad2019

“I look forward to the incredible experience of learning from and alongside amazing people from diverse backgrounds, both geographically and culturally, as well as those with different professional and academic interests. These are the experiences that really cause you to stretch yourself and grow in ways you didn’t anticipate, and I can’t wait to meet the moment with an open mind.”

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