Christina E. Hoicka, Faculty

professor on path

"I grew up in Toronto, right next to High Park. Curious and creative, I gained my deep appreciation for nature spending time at Lake Ontario, riding my bike throughout High Park, making visual art from natural and recycled materials, and spending time in Muskoka, Algonquin Park, and Haliburton. I also grew up riding transit and all the freedom that gave me in my teen years to go to thrift stores and the Goodwill to dress creatively in vintage finds.

For my bachelor degree, I studied chemical engineering at McGill University, and excelled in thermodynamics and calculus that explain rates of change, growth, and material throughput. I was invited to pursue a master’s degree researching thermal plasmas. While my curious side loved the applied physics of an ionized gas, when a visiting researcher exposed me a global estimate of the amount of battery waste to be recycled or disposed of, my heart sank. I couldn’t stop thinking about the sheer volume of waste in the world. Packaging, Styrofoam containers, plastic bags, our single-use, throwaway economy and all of the polluting chemicals that I was trained to produce or clean up that came with it. Thermodynamically, our economy of conspicuous consumption did not make sense to me.

Looking for something different, I found the MES program at York University. There, I discovered ecological economics, where I could apply my thermodynamic and calculus knowledge to understand the economy from the basis of material throughput. I was hired as an intern in an energy company, and I found my passion for transforming energy systems to mitigate climate change.

My curiosity drove me further and I received a PhD in Geography from the University of Waterloo, where I studied the determinants of energy demand and how communities are engaging in a low-carbon energy transition. I was hired as the Alectra Chair in Sustainable Energy Economics at York University, and quickly realized I was one of very few women energy professors. In fact, women make up less than 25% of employees in the energy sector in Canada. I also quickly learned that the transition to a low-carbon economy and climate change mitigation are not possible without a diverse group of people involved in this change, and I went to work. To increase visibility and collaboration, I co-founded a network of Women in Sustainable Energy Research (WISER) as well as the Hoicka Energy Lab, where a diverse group of students are trained with social science methods to examine how citizens, households, organizations, universities, Indigenous communities and people, and municipalities participate in energy activities to influence a low-carbon energy transition."

Dr. Christina E. Hoicka, B. Eng, MES, PhD (Geography)
Assistant Professor in Sustainable Energy Economics
Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University

 

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