Logan Bakker

Mechanical Engineering, graduated with a BEng in November 2019

Bakker sits on top of Mount Tolmie on a sunny day.
Triple-award winner Logan Bakker takes a well-deserved break on Mount Tolmie.

Logan Bakker, who graduated in November 2019, received top honours in UVic’s Faculty of Engineering for the 2019-20 academic year. Bakker received three awards in July 2020, these include: the Governor General's Silver Medal (the top UVic undergraduate award); the Canadian Society of Mechanical Engineering Medal; and the Engineers and Geoscientists of BC (EGBC) Gold Medal. We asked him some questions about his plans for the future and his time at UVic.

Congratulations on your amazing accomplishments! Can you tell us our plans for the near future?

I was born and raised in BC, and I know that there are few places in the world that I’d rather live. For the next four years, at least, I want to work towards earning my Professional Engineer designation from Engineers and Geoscientists BC. This is something that I’ve wanted for myself ever since I started my undergraduate degree and it will be beneficial for my long-term goals. Currently, I work for a local Victoria refrigeration consultancy which specializes in ice rinks and heat recovery systems. It has a global clientele and I’m learning a lot about industrial refrigeration, energy recovery and mechanical design. My goal is to establish some ethos in the field of alternative energy systems and develop positive relationships with the experts of that industry. Eventually, I want to find a research topic in energy system modelling that piques my academic interests and pursue a graduate degree specializing in that topic.

What longer-term impact do you hope to make?

For a very long time, my ultimate career goal has been to become an engineering consultant. My parents have always told me that I enjoy giving advice – but I like to joke that I learned that habit from them. The lifestyle and diversity of work were the initial attractors, but the past few years have made me realize that I just enjoy investigating a subject, gaining expertise in it and providing other people with professional advice on the subject. My early problem was that I didn’t know what I wanted to specialize in. When I graduated from high school, I thought that I wanted to specialize in robotics. At the end of my first year of my undergrad, I wanted to specialize in computational fluid dynamics. After my second year, I wanted to specialize in heating, ventilation and air-conditioning. Machine design was the new goal after my third year and general mathematical modelling was what I turned to during my fourth year.

In the end, my thermodynamics courses made me realize that I wanted something that was not concretely defined and larger in scope. I was learning about so many different subjects in my final year: phenomenological modelling, non-linear thermodynamics, machine vibrations, numerical analysis, energy systems and instrumentation. At the same time, I was a general mathematical modelling consultant for one of my prior co-operative education employers. All I discovered from this barrage of education was that I just enjoy the act of analyzing mechanical phenomena. Energy systems and alternative energy provide a great deal of appeal in this regard: both are extremely scalable subjects with significant diversity in application. And both are cornerstones of addressing environmental sustainability and climate change, both of which are vital research topics in today’s world and comprise a significant portion of the zeitgeist of my generation.

My penultimate goal is to fund an undergraduate scholarship for UVic. All of my siblings and I are alumni of UVic and I would love to sponsor a scholarship for the next generation of undergraduates. I would want the selection criteria for the scholarship to be based on three things that I hold in high esteem: academic performance, enrollment in the STEM disciplines and active involvement with the performing arts. My own academic success speaks to the first criterion and my family’s professional and academic background speaks to the second. The inclusion of involvement with the performing arts comes from my own experiences with music and dance. My parents forced me to start studying piano when I was six. When I became a teenager, I picked up two more instruments in the trombone and tuba. When I was in high school, I was a singer for several choirs. When I left home to start university, I learned Argentine Tango, Salsa, Bachata and West Coast Swing and I was on several performing dance teams. I didn’t enjoy any of these activities at their outset, but those feelings didn’t last and there are few activities that I have enjoyed more in my life than music and dance. Hindsight has shown me how much both art forms have influenced my cultural attitudes and my conception of global citizenship. It is my belief that all people should be involved or at least exposed to the performing arts in the hopes that it will benefit their own lives as much as it has benefitted my own.

What is a favourite memory about your degree or your time at UVic?

When I had just finished my third year at UVic, I was heading off for a co-operative education placement in Richmond. Just before I left, my friends and I had an overnight camping trip to Sombrio Beach on the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. I cycled out to the beach ahead of my friends – it was a six-hour ride amidst some of my favourite coastal vistas on Vancouver Island. By the time I reached the beach, I was very tired and sore but it was a great way to start a camping trip. My friends caught up with me about two hours later and we just had a blast. We cooked, swam, played games, sang, told stories and got up to more than a few shenanigans that none of us should try again. I may have woken up the next morning even more tired sore than I was the previous night, but it was an awesome night in one of the most gorgeous places on Earth with my best friends. The memory of those two days and all their associated adventures have stayed with me ever since. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Do you have any tips for students in your field?

All plans are meant to change. I graduated from UVic as a very different person with vastly different goals than when I first enrolled. In my own opinion, pursuing rigid academic or professional goals would be a disservice to one’s own intellectual and social maturation, regardless of one’s major. I don’t endorse the practice of using the university experience to “find one’s self,” but I do encourage the pursuit of unexpected opportunities. A university education provides a rare combination of freedom, resources and motivation to explore the world in all scopes and scales. Speaking to engineering specifically, I don’t think that students could start their undergraduate degree and know exactly where the future will lead: there are too many avenues to consider without immersion in the field.

To that end, I recommend that all students in all faculties use some of their time in university to broaden their education beyond their major. One of my favourite courses in my undergrad was a philosophy course on death and dying. It was concerned with the nature of mortality and the morality of suicide. While it didn’t relate to the study of engineering, this course contributed more to my own sense of self-worth and appreciation of life than any other course I completed in my undergrad. In the spirit of personal growth, I believe that undertaking courses that challenge one’s preconceptions are instrumental to life-long learning. Engaging in civil discourse about topics without universally accepted conclusions is an extremely healthy activity. It is a skill that I value more highly than any scientific or mathematical acumen.

Many years ago, my father told me something that imprinted on me: he remarked that his generation is one that is slow, or even fearful, to change. His view of my generation was the opposite: we are constantly expecting changes to occur and believe that such change is normal and healthy. The world is indeed entrained in constant flux. The pace is breakneck fast. The ability to react and be an agile participant in the Information Age has become a paramount quality. If my own indecisiveness in choosing an engineering specialty can serve as anecdotal evidence, I would advise all future engineering students to be open-minded about their future. Adaptability is the greatest asset one can have in today’s world – cultivate it thoroughly and develop it often.

Anything else you’d like to add?

My success at UVic is due in great part to a number of parties. My first-year mathematics professors and physics professors had the most direct impact on my time at UVic. Those two subjects provided the foundation for all of my future studies, and so I would like to thank Professor Svetlana Oshkai and Dr. Mark Laidlaw in particular, who lectured me, challenged me and indulged my questions over many lengthy meetings. I wanted to thank my thermodynamics professors, Dr. Henning Struchtrup, Dr. Rustom Bhiladvala, Dr. Andrew Rowe and Dr. Jordan Roszmann. These scholars fostered my interest in the fundamentals and advanced applications of engineering thermodynamics; their mentorship is largely responsible for my professional success in the engineering world. My co-operative education placement supervisors also deserve my gratitude – without them, I would not have found the opportunities to put my analytical and organizational talents to good use. For that, I thank Ben Staats of the West Fraser Timber Company, Kevin Plimbley of the Coast Mountain Bus Company and Mike Morettin of Dometic Vancouver. Lastly, I want to thank my friends and family: you supported and put up with me over the course of five years of intensive study and work. You were there for the late nights with assignments, the long days in the lab and the working weekends for projects. Thank you all, because I wouldn’t be here without you.

2020Jul20 AT

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