Skilled teacher and VSP instructor Balsher Sidhu is a researcher focused on understanding the impact of climate on agriculture. He is a PhD candidate at UBC’s Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability (IRES). IRES is an interdisciplinary department within the Faculty of Sciences, consistently ranked among the top 15 environmental sciences graduate programs in the world for the past decade. A leader in environment and sustainability research, IRES is paving the way for a greener world.

IRES faculty and graduates are highly sought-after, top-notch researchers and mentors. IRES professor Dr. David Boyd, for example, is the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, and IRES graduate Dr. Sophia Murphy is Executive Director of the U.S. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. IRES faculty frequently feature in mainstream media outlets, such as The Guardian, The New York Times and BBC.

Here are Sidhu’s thoughts on his experience as a VSP climate change course instructor:

“The role of an instructor: it is less about lecturing, and more about facilitating active discussion and ideation among the learners.”

What is one thing that you didn’t expect from VSP?

This was the first time I’ve taught such a diverse group of students from countries all over the world and with different academic backgrounds. The breadth and depth of knowledge that the students brought to class was a pleasant surprise!

What can VSP students expect from IRES?

Climate change resulting from anthropogenic activities is possibly the greatest global challenge we have faced in recent times. Using a hybrid model of in-class lectures and group discussions, invited guest talks and weekly field trips, our course is a detailed introduction to the rapidly developing science of climate change and global energy systems. We welcome students from a diverse educational background including natural, physical and social sciences.

What do you think international students can gain from one of your courses?

Given the global scope of the problem of climate change, solutions to it can only be found when the whole world works together. In the past, students in our course have greatly appreciated the collective learning experience with peers from all over the world.

Tell us about your area of teaching and research

Using advanced statistical methods, I am investigating the impact of climate variability and climate change on agriculture. The goal is to propose adaptation and mitigation strategies that can improve crop yields while meeting the challenge of climate change and minimizing adverse environmental impacts of our food systems. Supporting my research are: an NSERC Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship and a UBC Four Year Doctoral Fellowship.

What do you like about being a part of the UBC community?

UBC is routinely ranked among the global leaders in environmental research. There is an active and diverse community engaged in answering questions of global significance, and my research interests align really well with ongoing research at UBC in general and my department in particular.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

IIn summers, you will find me at the beach with a book. In winters, you will find me in a warm and cozy coffee shop, again with a book.