Alumni Spotlight

angel kwok

Angel Kwok, B.S. in Environmental Science, Class of 2008

Why did you select this undergraduate degree?

Science itself was always my favorite subject growing up and I knew I wanted to make a career out of it. Environmental science particularly appealed to me due to its versatility. To me, environmental science applied to all subjects from marketing, research, engineering, journalism, etc. and affects us all regardless of where we live or what we do.

Favorite courses and instructors?

One of my favorite courses was the Environment Science Practicum with Dr. Walter. The course consisted of a yearlong project with a final thesis to present. Environment 180 was the first true hands on training course where the instructor, instead of standing in front of the class room lecturing, guided us to formulate our own ways of testing our theories and drafting a final paper and presentation over the course of the year.

Describe your current profession.

Several months after graduating, I enlisted in the Coast Guard and worked as a Marine Science Technician (MST) responsible for pollution prevention and investigation. Shortly afterward, I applied, and completed, a rigorous 17 week Officer Candidate Program at the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut and currently work as a Pollution Prevention and Vessel inspections Officer in Juneau, Alaska.

In addition to the responsibilities I held as a MST, my job consists of boarding and inspecting both foreign and domestic vessels that transit in U.S. navigable waterways, verifying their pollution, safety, and compliance certificates. Any found out of compliance are subject to fines, detention, or denial of entry or even expulsion from our waterways.

Did your UCLA education help prepare you for this job?

Yes. Many of the courses demanded an interpretive approach such that nothing is laid out black and white, similar to the real world, but up to our own judgment. Thus, my judgment and analytical skill developed over several courses and has helped me with my job.

Would you encourage other undergraduate students to pursue this degree program?

Absolutely. Again, I believe environmental science is the most cross subject course of study, applicable in many ways and leads to a plethora of career paths.


Laura Gardner, B.S. in Environmental Science, Class of 2008

Why did you select this undergraduate degree?

I wanted a degree that pertained to sustainability and would expose me to environmental issues but was firmly grounded in science and mathematics. The Environmental Science Major offered a truly interdisciplinary experience.

I began working on the major before it was really offered. In one of my courses freshman year, I heard Dr. Mary Nichols, then the director of the IoES, describe a forthcoming degree in Environmental Science offered through the IoES. I began making inquiries into when this program would be finalized and started working with Dr. Keith Stolzenbach to develop a curriculum that would put me on track for the B.S. when it was available to declare. Dr. Stolzenbach was great to work with. He provided excellent guidance. I also really enjoyed Dr. Noah Molotch's class, which I believe was the Environmental Science Practicum at that time. Coastal Geomorphology with Dr. Orme was also surprisingly interesting.

Describe your current profession.

I am currently working for Seesmart, Inc., manufacturer of residential and commercial LED (light emitting diode) lighting. My official title is Marketing and Environment. Along with the president of the company, I direct all print and digital marketing campaigns, assist with ad design, develop promotional materials, write press releases, and identify policies, practices, and strategic relationships that help make the company more environmentally responsible.

Upon graduating from UCLA, I knew I wasn't done with higher education. I wanted to get some experience "in the field" before determining what Master’s program I would pursue (and in which part of the country).  I knew I needed some time working in environmental science or technology before I could be certain of which scientific discipline I wanted to pursue next.

I came upon an internship at Seesmart on BruinView, some eight months after graduation. After my first interview with Seesmart, the internship became a paid position as an executive assistant. It rapidly morphed from there. A few promotions later and I am now the marketing department.

When I began working for Seesmart, I informed my employers that I only intended to stay for two or three years. After that, I hoped to return to school. This might not have been the best interview tactic, but my honesty didn't hurt me. I still have my job, and I still intend to begin applying to graduate schools within the next year or so. But if I end up pushing that deadline back by another year or two, I won't be too upset. I've got a great job at a really exciting company. Seesmart's growth has been phenomenal, and no day there is ever dull.

Would you encourage other undergraduate students to pursue this degree program?

I would certainly encourage other students to pursue the Environmental Science degree program. The IoES offers more personalized attention than other departments and centers, the curriculum is very broad but firmly rooted in science, and the people in the IoES are very passionate about their respective disciplines. I found it pretty inspiring. Additionally, the program forces you to listen to a lot of great speakers.


Adam Grossman, Leaders in Sustainability Certificate Program, Class of 2009

What did you receive your graduate degree in?

MBA in Supply Chain and Ops Management.

Why did you choose to take part in the Leaders in Sustainability (LiS) Certificate Program for graduate students?

I believe business is not in conflict with the desire for more sustainable living. However, I believe there is a disconnect between guidance from the scientific communities and the corporate business tools which will be used to make those changes. There is also a lack of people in tactical, strategic, and operational roles to advocate, implement, and manage the changes. I want be one of the people who bridges that gap through my professional career and felt the LiS program would help me develop toward that goal.

Favorite courses and instructors?

Magali Delmas – Business and the Environment
Jim Kim – Clean Tech Entrepreneurship
Doug Keiller and Marcus Castain – Social Entrepreneurship
Jonathan Greenblat – Social Entrepreneurship

Describe your current profession.

I'm currently a Manager of Supply Chain Systems at Del Monte Foods. My role is to oversee all the supply chain systems associated with setting and maintaining finished goods inventory. It is my responsibility to assure that the information from our planning systems are accurate, as well as to find ways to produce system improvements and analysis which will help Del Monte manage their supply chain more effectively.

For the year prior to working at Del Monte, I worked in Business Development at an environmental business systems start-up called Climate Earth. At Climate Earth we built software as a service (SaaS) platform that helps Fortune 1000 sized companies like Del Monte leverage the data within their procurement and financial systems to create carbon, water, waste, and energy footprints for their operations and supply chains.

I took the position at Del Monte because I felt it was a great opportunity to continue to integrate sustainable management into tactical operations management. I'm looking to bring my perspective on quantitative sustainable supply chain management while learning about how supply chain systems work within a corporation.

Do you think your participation in LiS impacted you professionally?

Yes. The LiS program gave me a great theoretical foundation to bring environmental business practices to my current role. I learned a lot about the developing fields of quantifying environmental impacts like carbon measurement, corporate social responsibility reporting and the benefits of transparency among stakeholders.

Moreover, the LiS program has provided me a great network of like-minded individuals that I constantly draw upon as my and their careers advance.

Would you encourage other graduate students to pursue this program?

As one of the first graduates of the LiS program, it was truly in its infancy. As the market place and techniques for sustainable measurement continue to develop the opportunity to teach sustainable business theory and train students with practical tools and modeling skills sets will grow as well. It's very exciting for me to hear about classes like Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), energy management, environmental engineering, or green chemistry starting to be developed; these classes were only concepts mentioned in passing during lecture discussions three years ago.

Also stated above, having a network of people scattered throughout business, academic, and public sector is a tremendous benefit to bringing sustainable initiatives to fruition within my day to day job. It's invaluable to have resources where a person can continuously learn from others because it helps you stay current on the cutting edge sustainability practices which are making their way into mainstream business strategy.


Alistair Ono, Leaders in Sustainability Certificate Program, Class of 2009

Why did you choose to take part in LiS?

I wanted to expand both my network and the class offerings in sustainability while at UCLA. As Net Impact Vice President of Curriculum, I was also tasked with developing more sustainability offerings for the MBA program. Classes like Green Building and Development were not offered at Anderson, but could be taken in the Department of Urban Planning.

Favorite courses and instructors?

Magali Delmas – LiS Core
Jonathan Greenblatt – Social Entrepreneurship
Student-run – Green Building and Development in the Department of Urban Planning

Describe your current profession.

I am currently the Vice President of Sales for Climate Earth, a startup based in San Francisco focused on helping companies in the Fortune 1000 to measure and manage the environmental impact of their supply chains and operations. As a startup, my role goes beyond sales and includes strategy, partnership outreach, and marketing. After finishing the MBA program, I was introduced to Climate Earth by a fellow LiS graduate. Since I had a background in sustainability from the LiS program, including classes in Green Building and Development (that led to me acquiring my LEED Accredited Professional status) and previous sales/marketing experience, Climate Earth's mission and market were a good fit and I've been there for the past year and a half. We hired in Adam Grossman (the aforementioned LiS grad) and went to work defining the strategy, product offerings, pricing, etc. During our time with CE, we have acquired the startups first five fortune 1000 clients and developed the market positioning as the go-to company for Supply Chain / Scope 3 environmental business intelligence.

Do you think your participation in LiS impacted you professionally?

Definitely. The LiS program is a more realistic classroom experience for the sustainability professional. It is rare that you will interact or be able to accomplish sustainability goals through working with only business people, lawyers, engineers, etc. The LiS program helped me to understand that different perspectives and motivations that drive the various pieces of the sustainability landscape. For example, the IP in my current startup is driven from Environmental Engineers in academia and it is the MBA background that has helped to make it more business relevant. We must communicate value in terms of business return on investment (ROI) as well as sell the concept to internal engineering and tech teams, general counsel, developers, etc. LiS helped to create a common language to use to achieve sustainability goals.

Would you encourage other graduate students to pursue this program?

Without a doubt. First, you will be able to access a much broader offering of courses than you would in sticking with those offered in your graduate major. Second, you will be able to interact and build a network with a group of mission driven students across the UCLA campus—people you may never have met otherwise. Finally, LiS is a unique program that always draws questions in interviews, etc., and can be a great differentiator on resumes.

nancy tsengNancy Tseng received her B.S. in Environmental Science in 2010. She is currently enrolled in a dual Master's and doctoral degree program here at UCLA, with the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Describe your experience as an Institute of the Environment and Sustainability student.

I heard about the start of the Environmental Science Major after taking a General Education Cluster Course focusing on this topic. I felt that the issues discussed in that class, including sustainability and air and water pollution, were very relevant to the present and future, and I was motivated to contribute to this field. Since part of this degree program requires you to concentrate on a specific topic, I chose an Environmental Health Minor. This exposed me to challenging but rewarding, graduate level classes, which inspired me to participate in research on the toxicological effects of pollutants. I was able to obtain a volunteer position at a lab at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) through one of the speakers in the Environmental Science Seminar Series. This position turned out to be my final research project at the IoES and motivated me to conduct even more research.

Discuss your current academic endeavor. Why did you choose this particular field to focus on?

After finishing my project at UCSB, I emailed many professors at UCLA whose research focused on removing toxic compounds from the environment. Professor Shaily Mahendra allowed me to work in her lab during my fourth year and took me on as a graduate student. My current project deals with determining whether naturally found microorganisms, such as bacteria, can degrade perfluorinated compounds (PFCs).

PFCs are human-made compounds produced since the late 1940s and are used in a variety of products from lubricants, non-stick coatings, aqueous fire-fighting foams, and electronics. Since PFCs are highly stable in the environment, they have been found globally, even in areas that do not produce them, including the deep ocean, the Arctic, and Canada. Toxicological tests have shown that PFCs are carcinogens, reproductive and developmental toxins, and endocrine disrupters. It is critical that an effective and feasible method is developed to remove these compounds from the environment and limit human exposure. Microbial degradation may be the method to remove PFCs.

How is your present path related to health, the environment, and sustainability?

My present path aims to remove toxic compounds from the environment and to reduce human exposure. This will improve the environment and human health.

bryan moyBryan Moy was part of the second Environmental Science cohort. After graduating in 2009 he ventured east to Columbia University, earning a Master's in Public Health in Epidemiology.  He's returned to UCLA to start a doctoral program in Environmental Health Sciences.   

Describe your experience as an Institute of the Environment and Sustainability student.

Looking back at my experiences as an undergraduate, it really was the students and the professors who made all the difference.  Their excitement, passion, and common commitment towards understanding and protecting the processes of our world created an experience that has definitely instilled in me a sense of passion and pride to be an IoES graduate.

Discuss your current academic endeavor. Why did you choose this particular field to focus on?

Currently, I'm in the first year of my Ph.D. program in Environmental Health Sciences, with interests at the intersection of climate change, urban centers, and infectious diseases.  My focus in Environmental Health Sciences stemmed from the Environmental Health Science courses I took as a requirement for my minor, and an awesome internship I received between my Junior and Senior year. 

With the opportunity to apply my coursework in a research context, I applied as a guest researcher at the National Center for Environmental Health, one of the three primary centers of the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Working with the Associate Director for Global Climate Change, I was able to complete research projects on a variety of climate and health issues, focused within an urban context. With this internship I knew that this field was definitely right for me. 

How is your present path related to health, the environment, and sustainability?

My interests lie at the intersection between climate change, urban infrastructures, and public health.  More specifically, I'm interested in understanding how cities can be adapted in such a way as to mitigate the effects of climate change (such as through sustainable design, alterations to the built environment, etc.), and quantifying how these specific adaptations can aid in reducing negative health outcomes such as infectious disease ranges or decreases in anthropogenic constructs (such as the Urban Heat Island Effect), which can exacerbate natural weather phenomena such as Extreme Heat Events.  By striving to create more sustainable cities, one could hope to achieve additional co-benefits not only to the environment, but also towards health.

jenny wardJennifer Ward graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Science and Minor in Environmental Health, Urban & Regional Studies in 2010. She is currently pursuing a graduate degree at the Harvard School of Public Health, studying global health and population and infectious disease epidemiology.

Describe your experience as an Institute of the Environment and Sustainability student.

The Institute of the Environment and Sustainability provided a unique interdisciplinary program in environmental science. The collaborative and applied nature of the program and the ability for students to explore a wide range of topics and areas within environmental science provided a strong foundation for my academic and professional development. Having the opportunity to engage with the UCLA School of Public Health via the Environmental Health Minor was integral in sparking my interests in graduate school and public health in general. The high caliber and passion for the environment of my fellow students and professors made being a part of the IoES a rewarding undergraduate experience.

Discuss your current academic endeavor. Why did you choose this particular field to focus on?

I am currently a graduate student at the Harvard School of Public Health, pursuing a M.S. in Global Health and Population. My research focuses on the ecology of infectious diseases, complex human-environment systems, and the impacts of global environmental change on public health. The emerging field of global environmental health provides an exciting avenue for me to blend my interests in the natural and biological sciences, while creating a positive public health impact. Using a systems approach to environmental health with a focus on global issues is a developing discipline, providing many opportunities and challenges for young professionals such as myself.

How is your present path related to health, the environment, and sustainability?

Holistic approaches to infectious disease control efforts attempt to understand the complex relationships between diseases and their contextual ecosystem. In order to effectively design control programs and ensure their sustained impact, these links must be recognized and studied. On the macro-scale, I am interested in how we can design more climate resilient cities to minimize the negative health impacts of climate change.