On 9th March alumni Vibhati (Vibs) Bhatia (BSc Psychology, 2018) and Dr Dan Stewart (PhD Chemistry, 2020) tackled the topic of climate change, from their very different perspectives.
Vibs has worked in sustainability for two years and is a Senior Sustainability and Environmental, Social and Governmental (ESG) Consultant for EY. She is also the founder of South Asians for Sustainability.
Dan is the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Impact Acceleration Account (EPSRC IAA) Research fellow within the School of Chemistry at the University of Southampton and CEO of ViridiCO2, a company that is developing new technologies to repurpose waste carbon dioxide emissions and harness their power as a fossil fuel alternative.
Student host Frey Patten is in the third year of her Environmental Science degree at Southampton, and will be starting her Masters course in Environmental Law next year.
For Vibs, work on sustainability and climate change has been her ‘core purpose’ for many years, and her focus is on tackling these issues from the perspective of people, communities and effecting behavioural change.
When asked what advice she would give a student interested in working in sustainability, Vibs said: “There’s no right or wrong way to find your path into this kind of work. Life experience and conversations that you have will be key and you need to give yourself the chance to figure it out. Try lots of new things until you find the thing that ignites your passion. My degree helped me to connect to people and stay open to opportunities. Purpose should be at the heart of everything we do.”
She attributed a ‘pivotal shift’ in her thinking to the Global Challenges module she took as part of her undergraduate degree in psychology at Southampton.
Dan also remembers the turning point that set him on his current path: a third year lecture in sustainable chemistry by Professor Robert Raja. Dan cited the need for significant change to avoid the ‘impending climate catastrophe’, saying that it can’t come down to one or two individuals or companies.
Everyone can play a role in environmental protection, and individuals from all kinds of different backgrounds, with a broad range of experience, are needed for us to successfully avert disaster. “Diversity is key to saving the world.” He said, “and that is what we have to do: save the world.”
We asked Frey about what she had learned from our alumni speakers.
“I think listening to Vibs and Dan made it clear that there are so many ways to change the world and you don’t necessarily need to be a scientist. There’s no specific scientific pathway that means that you will make the biggest difference. Hearing from Vibs with her background in psychology it’s clear that it has not stopped her at all!
But I think also, listening to both of them speak about the academics that encouraged them, or specific modules that clarified things for them, it just shows how significant one individual can be in determining your future. Just one person needs to be concerned and interested to ignite that passion.”
“It’s just crazy to think how many people are out there making a difference. I think it’s inspiring to know that there’s the potential to do whatever you want. Other people have gone before me with the same experiences and opportunities that I’m having now, building relationships with their classmates and their lecturers and each one of them now has their own story. It would be so great to hear more about what former Southampton students are doing out in the world about climate change and environmental issues. I feel like I’m part of something amazing.”
You can watch the recording of the talk, or find out about upcoming webinars in the Degrees to Save the World series here.
We’d love to hear about how you’re using the experiences you gained at Southampton to help change the world for the better. You can send us your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.