Interdisciplinary teaching: Rock-solid preparation for professional life

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On a wonderfully sunny day in June 2016, I graduated with an honours degree in Geology and Physical Geography. Four years of labs, essays, field trips and, of course, rocks… it was schist hot! I really enjoyed the degree course and acquired excellent analytical and problem-solving skills. However, standing outside the Usher Hall thinking about what will come next, apart from fizz, I couldn’t help but feel I needed to learn more before entering the ‘real’ world. I therefore decided I wanted to do a Masters, which would not only build on my physical science knowledge, but would also afford me the opportunity to apply it in a social, business and economic context. That is how I came across the MSc Carbon Management course at Edinburgh University. Although based in the School of GeoSciences, it works closely alongside both the Business School and the School of Economics. The interdisciplinary nature of the course was a major attraction, making it stand-out in comparison to other Masters and was one of the main reasons why I decided to enrol in Autumn 2016.

The Carbon Management syllabus is made up of three pillars: Science, Business and Economics. The course aims to teach students how to tackle climate change through a greater understanding of not only the science but also the business and economic risks and opportunities. It was delivered brilliantly by a range of enthusiastic lecturers and tutors from all three Schools. This inter-disciplinary teaching meant that no one day was ever the same! Another key feature of the course is the multi-national and cross-disciplinary make-up of the students, coming together from a range of backgrounds and cultures. The complexities, but also advantages, of team work alongside students of different nationalities, languages and a wide age range was something I had never been exposed to, but it is something I encounter everyday now working for an international company.

Due to its interdisciplinary nature, the course’s learning approaches are far from traditional, containing many vocational and practical elements. We were continuously put into teams and made to present in different styles on various topics ranging from climate change impact assessment to the proposal of new sustainable business solutions. This helped me to expand on some of my existing abilities but, more importantly, gave me the opportunity to develop new skills highly valued by employers.

One of my favourite, although rather challenging, exercises involved creating a ‘low -carbon’ investment opportunity for which my group created a fictional floating solar PV project in the south of England. Throughout this project, I researched technical aspects of solar energy generation as well as current UK energy policy, and I was required to do cash flow analysis. The nature of this exercise advanced my analytical abilities as I developed a much greater understanding of project financials and the proposing of business solutions. Such skills I now use day to day as a business analyst for a renewable energy developer.

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An additional assignment involved working in collaboration with the Carbon Trust, auditing the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop in order to calculate their carbon footprint, as well as identifying energy efficiencies and detailing cost saving measures. This assignment gave me first-hand experience of the world of consultancy, and I have now used the experience gained to propose new, effective sustainable measures to management. This has helped the company achieve its goal to become carbon neutral.

Without a doubt the interdisciplinary nature of the Carbon Management course opened the door to my current occupation. The new skills and abilities I learnt through interdisciplinary styles of teaching have helped me negotiate and manage different elements of my job, every day.

Kevin Meier

Kevin Meier is currently a business analyst for BayWa r.e. UK, a German headquartered renewable energy developer. Kevin works within the project development team supporting on acquisitions, business case development, project implementation and financing and market research for renewable energy projects both in the UK and abroad. Previously a graduate from the University of Edinburgh, he holds a BSc in Geology and Physical Geography, and, more recently, an MSc in Carbon Management.

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