Kelly Sveinson

Education heats up.

Kelly Sveinson, Chemistry Instructor

“Science is about proving and disproving theories, not just reading textbooks.” That’s chemistry instructor Kelly Sveinson’s opinion, and his commitment to hands-on learning has sparked the creation of one of Langara’s most successful applied-research partnerships.

In 2010, Kelly embarked on a project with environmental-solution company Diacarbon Energy to experiment with biochar – a kind of charcoal being studied for its potential to mitigate the effects of climate change, as well as its capacity for increasing soil fertility. He saw the industry partnership as an opportunity not only to further his own studies, but also to get his students involved in real-world applied research. One of those students was Marcus Stein, who initially met Kelly through the SWAP program and has since gone on to work as a part-time research assistant in the chemistry department and an employee for Diacarbon.  

“I got the students involved right from the beginning of the project. One of these students was Marcus, who is now my lab assistant. I thought that this was an excellent educational opportunity for our students; it gives them an edge on their resumés when they can say they participated in a genuine research project. Students at larger universities like UBC or SFU don’t get the chance to participate in research projects in their first or second year, but we can leverage that opportunity because of our size and connections. As an advanced education institution we want to encourage knowledge exploration – to contribute to the body of knowledge, rather than simply reiterate what is already known.”

To conduct his research, Kelly designed a custom biochar experimental reactor that resides on the Langara campus. With the help of his students, the chemistry instructor explores the potential for converting certain solid wastes into biochar, evaluating the resulting product for use in soil improvement in the Langara Community Garden. 

Kelly has been at the College for 21 years, currently teaching first-year chemistry and environmental techniques. As a leader in environmental sustainability, Langara is highly supportive of initiatives like the biochar project. The College was the first in Canada with LEED™ Gold-certified buildings, and is now leading the green-energy front in BC with its biochar research.

Kelly and student/lab assistant Marcus work with Langara's biochar reactor.

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Posted on: August 15, 2013