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Robin Urquhart

"There’s a real human aspect, and a lot of support from Ryerson."

Robin Urquhart

Age: 31

Hometown: Whitehorse, Yukon

Program: Master of Building Science

Undergraduate degree: Environmental History, Queen's University

Master's degree: Environmental Science, University or Northern British Columbia

Why did you choose Ryerson for your Master’s education?

It’s the only university that offers a master’s in building science.

What is the focus of your current research?

It’s a study of airflow in multi-unit residential buildings. Specifically, I’m studying the tightness of the building enclosure and how that affects air leakage rates in the building. A lot of the problems that we see in these residential buildings are a result of this shell not being very tight. I’m really looking at how making a tighter shell affects the building overall, because that might be the solution to a lot of the problems that we’re facing with our large buildings.

Why does this research appeal to you?

This is an issue that’s relevant to pretty much anywhere in Canada. Toronto has the second-most towers in North America; Vancouver has the fourth. We had a guest presenter come through Ryerson who worked for an engineering firm in Vancouver, and after the talk that he gave, I immediately went up to him and asked, “How do I do what you do, and how do I work for you?” And that’s how I got on this project.

Can you give an example of a memorable research experience?

There were a few, but a large number of them came from Russell Richman’s class. I think one of the “Aha” moments for me was actually understanding what condensation is. It sounds silly, but I’ve never really thought about why condensation forms on the inside of your car windows. It’s a really simple concept, but it was one of those moments that made me start looking around and realizing that the physics of building science are the physics everywhere. The more you learn about building science, the more you learn about how our entire environment operates. And that’s the really important part about building science – making our buildings operate within our environment.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I’m working with RDH Building Engineering Ltd. right now, and I’d like to continue in the building science capacity. In five years, I’d like to be in a design role for large-scale commercial buildings. I’d like to be part of a team that is really pushing hard to make more efficient yet beautiful, high-rise, multi-unit residential buildings.

What’s the most rewarding thing about being a graduate student at Ryerson?

There’s a lot of support from Ryerson. I know all of my professors quite well, and I get along with them all. There’s a real effort to make a relationship. My supervisor, Russell Richman, is awesome. There’s a real human aspect, and a lot of support from Ryerson. I feel like I could email or call every professor I’ve had and ask questions even though now I’m working for an engineering firm, and they would give me a straight-up answer.

What do you think of Ryerson’s graduate student life?

There’s a really strong effort to network grad students from different disciplines. Within our discipline, we have our own group, and it’s awesome. I know Ryerson’s a big university now, something like 30,000 students, but it really didn’t feel that way. It felt like a tight-knit graduate community.

If you could describe your experience so far as a Ryerson graduate student in one word, what would it be?


Why should students come to Ryerson?

There’s a high aspect ratio of teachers to students. There are quality supervisors who are approachable. Ryerson has a really good online library. We have access to a ton of journals. Just the fact of being in Toronto; there are so many more people you can meet and network with. And the campus is nice. It’s downtown, it’s well set up, it’s pretty, and the facilities are good.

Compiled by Yasmin Jaswal.