By Danni Zhou
Tyler Ellis (Class of ’20 SPS, Sustainability Science) graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2008 with a degree in environmental science. He researched in an analytical mercury laboratory during his undergraduate career and learned invaluable lab skills from his mentors. After college, he held numerous jobs ranging from environmental consulting to instrument manufacturing. Ellis is currently a part-time master’s student in the M.S. in Sustainability Science program and manages the arsenic geochemistry lab at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory.
What initially attracted you to the Sustainability Science program at Columbia University?
Sustainability Science billed itself as a more analytically focused science program, filling a niche not found elsewhere among Columbia’s master’s programs. The ability to take courses from leading researchers from the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory while learning new skills that are applicable to my profession were the major selling points of Sustainability Science.
What type of skills have you been able to build and improve on through the program?
The most important skills I’ve been learning have been in programming. Climate modeling requires heavy use of Matlab. Other topics like sustainability indicators requires the use of statistical packages in programs like Python and R. Additionally, most courses require reading and critical assessments of peer-reviewed research articles, which is consistently useful while working in the research sector. Other courses offer the promise of learning environmental monitoring methods that I’ve yet to work with but would serve to make me a more versatile researcher overall.
How have these skills helped you succeed at your job?
I’m able to use new-found programming skills to increase my efficiency working with data and stay sharp reading and analyzing applicable peer-reviewed research. Additionally, future courses focusing on environmental monitoring of air quality, for instance, will help me be more useful in ongoing fieldwork that requires the knowledge of a variety of specialized sampling methods.
Was the format of the program (e.g. full-time, part-time, mostly or fully online, etc.) helpful?
Indeed! Being able to continue to work in the lab and grow professionally while working towards a graduate degree was extremely appealing. I have a lot of work experience and didn’t want to put that on hold to attend a full-time program somewhere else, so the flexibility in working on both at the same time is proving very helpful.
What are your post-graduate plans?
I hope to continue working at Lamont in a more senior role. I’m lucky to be part of an excellent research group with a focus of study that has a direct connection with public health and want to bring the skills I learn from Sustainability Science to solving those problems we’re currently facing.
Danni Zhou is a content specialist at the School of Professional Studies and M.S. Graduate Student, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
The M.S. in Sustainability Science, co-sponsored by the Earth Institute and Columbia’s School of Professional Studies, focuses on the scientific methods and tools that can be used to observe, monitor, and respond to environmental impacts. Visit our website to learn more.