Congratulations to Duncan McNicholl, who was honoured at the 2014 Engineering Excellence Celebration as the recipient of the 2014 UBC Engineering Outstanding Young Alumnus Award*!
Duncan received his BASc in Civil Engineering in 2009, with distinction, but he was dedicated to more than just his studies during his time at UBC. In 2003, his life was changed by a trip to Antarctica, where he was able to see how the enormous challenges of global warming and vast poverty were affecting humanity globally. He was left with a deep desire to directly tackle these challenges, and has pursued his goals with admirable drive over the past eleven years. He was an active member of Engineers Without Borders at UBC, and with the knowledge gained he gave several lectures to a first year engineering course on the relationship between engineering, design, and international development. In his third year, he coordinated a Student Directed Seminar on sustainable international development and engineering, which was so successful it was adopted as part of the Applied Science curriculum.
Duncan continued to work with EWB after graduation, working in Malawi from March 2010 until present with the Malawi Water and Sanitation Program. He has been commended by the Malawian Government for his keen understanding and professionalism in navigating the space between policy and practice, and his work has made tangible differences for communities living in poverty in rural and peri-urban Malawi, whose access to clean water and treatment of waste water have been improved, alongside their community health. During his time in Malawi, Duncan has also engaged the local population by offering tutoring in math and trumpet performance.
Duncan has made great strides forward in challenging the perceptions of poverty through his “Perspectives of Poverty” project. This project was referenced in several publications, including the New York Post and Maclean’s magazine, and has been further cited by graduate theses and NGOs in pursuance of poverty awareness.
Duncan will be leaving Malawi in September 2014 to pursue a PhD in Engineering at the University of Cambridge in England. He is anticipating his thesis work will focus on water access issues in Africa.
*About the award: This award is presented to a UBC Engineering alumnus under 35 (before Dec 31 in the year in which the award is received) who since graduation has made significant positive contributions to society and whose professional achievements, community service or academic excellence are distinguished and reflect the essence of UBC Applied Science mission. The recipient must have a UBC Applied Science degree.