Internship experience earns Environmental Science student Suncor Prize


Nadine Wakabayashi at Suncor

Fourth Year Environmental Studies student Nadine Wakabayashi is the first science student to ever win the Suncor Energy Foundation’s Faculty of Engineering Science Award .


By Mitchell Zimmer

There will be something a little different at this year’s Western’s Engineering Fall Awards Ceremony this November 19th. Nadine Wakabayashi is the first student in the Faculty of Science to ever win the Suncor Energy Foundation’s Faculty of Engineering Science Award. Suncor opened the applications for the $5000 award to include Wakabayashi who was their first Science intern. During the summer of her Internship, Wakabayashi took time to answer a few questions about the award, the internship experience and her plans for the future.

How did you first hear of Suncor Energy Foundation’s Faculty of Engineering Science Award?

I first heard of the scholarship from the previous interns, who work with the new interns for a four-month overlap before they finish their 16-month work terms. They were applying for it, and I was really excited at the thought of a $5000.00 scholarship!

Was there a mentor at Suncor who suggested that you should apply?

There was no specific mentor who suggested I apply. Human Resources contacted the interns to let them know the award would be offered again this year. There was an application process that was due about a month later. This process involved filling out a performance evaluation of yourself, as well as having your supervisor fill out the same performance evaluation.

As for mentors, there are several people not only in my department, but outside as well. More specifically, there are many young, very driven and hard-working individuals, that I strive to become. Many of them started as interns at Suncor, and have returned as full-time employees after graduation.

When did you find out you won?

I found out I won on May 25, 2009. My supervisor asked me to stop by his office, where he congratulated me on my performance over the internship, and presented me with the scholarship letter. It was extremely exciting as I was so anxious to find out over the month wait!

What module(s) are you enrolled in?

I will be starting my fourth year in the Honours Specialization of Environmental Science program in the fall. I am really looking forward to beginning my final year, as the courses I’m enrolled in are very specific to my interests. I am also extremely excited to begin my fourth year BSc thesis research project working with Dr. Fred Longstaffe and the Laboratory for Stable Isotope Science group (Environmental Science 4970F & 4971G).

Have you always been interested in this field?

Yes, I have always been very fascinated with all aspects of the environment and environmental issues. More specifically, I am very interested in learning more about sustainability and alternative forms of energy. This 16-month internship has provided me with the opportunity to gain knowledge of the industry side of the environment, learning about and applying several environmental regulations to the operation of the refinery. Over the past year, I was also able to participate on two of the City of Sarnia Committee’s, the Sarnia Environmental Advisory Committee, and the Sarnia Urban Wildlife Committee, which was a great learning experience.

Has the internship program given you a better feel for the world of work?

Without a doubt! This internship has provided me with so many valuable skills that you don’t learn in school. I have met so many amazing people, both Suncor employees as well as other contract companies, who have become my mentors, friends and contacts, who I strive to become. The family atmosphere at Suncor provided me with the opportunity to feel comfortable with all employees and enhance my learning experience by never hesitating to ask questions!

The internship has helped me focus my direction for my last year on my future career goals. I was a little nervous about returning to school after working for 16-months, but I’m now feeling more driven than ever to do really well and further my education with a Master’s degree. There are so many career paths in the environmental science field, and after working in Suncor’s Environment, Health and Safety Department, I have realized that this is a career I would love to pursue.

Are you considering graduate school?

Graduate school is definitely in my plans for the future! I am really interested in applying for the Master’s Program in Environment and Sustainability (MES) or a research-based Master’s Program in Earth Science, continuing the research I will be conducting for my BSc fourth-year thesis.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

My internship in the Environment, Health and Safety Department at Suncor Energy Products was, by far, the best and most valuable experience in my life! I have learned more than I ever expected, and my new skill set will definitely aid in securing future employment following graduation. Employers are looking for more than just grades, and completing an internship will help you stand ahead of the crowd! I would recommend the Science Internship Program to all eligible students!