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Student story

Dr Tom Logan

20 July 2023

"UC has and continues to enable me to make a difference..."


Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Natural Resources Engineering

Bachelor of Science in Mathematics

Master of Science in Geography and Environmental Engineering, Johns Hopkins University

PhD in Industrial and Operations Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Fulbright Scholar

Dr Tom Logan has now joined the academic staff in the Department of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering. He is part of a new specialisation, Civil Systems Engineering, that combines civil engineering with operations research. His research focuses on how designing cities and communities, how to adapt them to climate change, build their resilience, and make them sustainable and healthy.

His PhD dissertation was awarded the top dissertation award at the University of Michigan's Industrial and Operations Engineering Department, the 2nd best OR department in the world, for his cohort.

During his four and a half years at UC studying Natural Resources Engineering and Mathematics, Tom tried to get involved with as much as possible. Each year he would dress up for TWALK, the annual 24-hour orienteering race organised by the Canterbury University Tramping Club and was significantly involved with other UC clubs, in particular Engineers Without Borders. One particularly memorable moment was a summer spent catching native birds in the Kaikōura forests for the Biology department.

"Tramping the Routeburn track in the winter using, what turned out to be, an unreliable weather forecast wasn’t the smartest choice I made during my time as an undergrad, but it was certainly among the best," Tom says. "The icy snow flurries, adventurous friends with terrible jokes, hedonistic kea, and resplendent views when the skies cleared, made it a trip of a lifetime. UC became my gateway to the South Island, the outdoors, and offered me fantastic opportunities both academic and social that I will never forget."

Tom was a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship and the John R Templin Trust Postgraduate Engineering Scholarship and studied a Master of Science in Geography and Environmental Engineering at Johns Hopkins University in the USA. His research investigated modelling sustainable cities.

"Cities are complex systems made up of many interconnected “parts”. I’m interested to know how changing one “part” will affect another. For example, if the oil price changes, could we see a change in the health of the population? Hopkins was a fantastic place to be studying this with the interaction between departments such as Environmental Engineering, Public Health, Civil Engineering and others through institutes such as the Systems Institute and the Energy, Environment, Sustainability, and Health Institute."

Civil and Natural Resources Engineering (CNRE), as he recalls being told by his lecturers, involves putting in place systems for the good of society. Tom aspired to become an academic because of the associated freedom to pursue what he feels will make a difference. The potential advances for sustainable city modelling by coupling operations research with CNRE inspired his doctorate study in Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan.

"Industrial and Operations Engineering is, at face value, very different from conventional civil/environmental engineering," he says. "However, many of UC’s courses are very relevant to operations research and are world class. The extra courses which I picked up on my mentors’ advice in more detailed Mathematics and Statistics have been superb preparation and I cannot claim to have foreseen their future benefit at the time.

"I think this is what put me in a competitive position among my peers from all around the world. In short, Canterbury made me internationally competitive."

As such, UC will always remain a special place for him.

"UC offered me so many opportunities. From my last year at high school I was engaged through the STAR programme by the Math department along with the College of Science, and the Emerging Leaders’ Development Programme I was supported the whole way through university and it made a difference: university is alleged by high schools to be such an intimidating place, but this wasn’t my experience at Canterbury."

To others interested in making a difference, Tom recommends finding something you’re passionate about.

"University opens up a lot of doors for you, there are pathways which you may never have heard of. Find your niche and always strive to be the best you can. That, with some adventures thrown in, has led me to do things which I am thoroughly enjoying."

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