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Master of Environmental Science program is unique in Canada

FIELD WORK: Students map and record details about a giant slab of material that was once part of a submarine volcano and has been pushed up on dry land as a result of plate tectonic movements. They are on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica for a field course. (Photo by Ken Howard.)

The Master of Environmental Science program offers a unique interdisciplinary approach that gives students a well-rounded grounding in the sciences they will need to tackle the serious issues that affect our planet. The 12-month program prepares them to deal with vital environmental challenges and includes an internship.

The advent of this new program, the only one of its kind in Canada, is changing the face of the graduate student body on campus. Roughly one third of the approximately 170 graduate students registered here at Scarborough are pursuing a Master of Environmental Science, either full- or part-time.

“Environmental issues are beginning to dominate the agenda and discussions in the public domain. The need for people who are skilled in dealing with the wide range of challenges in this emerging career field is only expected to grow,” said Prof. Don Cormack, director of the program and the chair of the department of physical & environmental sciences. “We are thrilled that the program is growing so quickly and that we are producing graduates who are in high demand.”

“Whereas other universities offer environmental master’s programs that focus on environmental policy and soft sciences, our program has a focus on hard sciences,” said Cormack. “We are getting calls on a daily basis from interested applicants from all around the world.”

The students are taking classes in chemistry, hydrology, geophysics, field work, environmental remediation, risk assessment and environmental regulation and law. So far, the placement rate is 100 per cent after graduation, Cormack added.

An exciting component of the M.Env.Sc. is a travel opportunity in the form of a “field camp.” Offered as an optional course each summer, the Environmental Science Field Camp runs about 10 days in duration. Classes have travelled to exciting locations in Canada such as the Canadian Rockies and exotic locales like Costa Rica. While in the field, the class studies water, land, vegetation and wildlife, employing techniques from geology, hydrology, microbiology and other areas of environmental science.

The faculty members in the program are all cross-appointed with U of T’s Centre for Environment, located on the St. George campus. One is Prof. Nasrat Hijazi, an experienced environmental scientist and consultant. Hijazi has a PhD in physical chemistry and worked for 30 years in the environmental field, including work at the Ministry of the Environment.

“Prof. Hijazi has come to us after years of working in industry and his presence enables us to bring a very practical element to the program,” said Cormack. “He will help us to produce graduates with the range of skills that will be needed in the work force.”

Hijazi is teaching courses that range from the science of contaminated site remediation to a course on interpreting the complex environmental regulations that govern all activities that impact the environment.

“The students in the program are dedicated and enthusiastic, so I’m happy to be here,” said Hijazi. “A solid understanding of the environmental industry relies on good science. Our students will have the sound scientific grounding to go out there and solve real-world problems that make a difference to everyone who shares our environment.”

Visit the program website to find out more…

© University of Toronto Scarborough