Filip – making a difference in climate change

Amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are rising, and with them the global temperature. LiU student Filip Seifarth is hoping to do something about climate change.

Picture of student Filip Seifart, student in the master´s program Science for Sustainable Development.

Filip Seifarth is taking the second year of the master’s programme in sustainable development. He chose the field of study from a deep desire to make a difference.

“I want to be able to wake up every day and feel that I have made a real difference in the world”, he says. 

Before starting the master’s programme, he took the three-year bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences at Campus Norrköping. Studying at Linköping University and the choice of these two degrees that focus on the environment and sustainability was a natural choice for Filip. Not only because he grew up in Norrköping and has a passionate interest in the climate question, but also because both study programmes are interdisciplinary. 

“We mix the natural sciences with social sciences, environmental law, and gender studies, which gives me an amazingly comprehensive overview.” 

Active as student buddy

The choice of education was also made easier in that he was aware of the good reputation of the programmes and had heard that LiU has a lucrative and enjoyable student life.

“That’s right. During my first degree I was marketing manager, and got involved with the mentorship programme, where I made loads of new friends. Now I am one of our student buddies, which means that I act as a sounding board between students and teachers. It’s about becoming aware of questions and concerns, and making sure that the international students in particular (who make up approximately 75% of the class) feel that everything is OK, and the grading seems fair.” 

He did not take a break in studies between the bachelor’s degree and the master’s programme. 

“I knew that I would want to continue studying at some time, and after the bachelor’s degree, which I completed in the summer of 2020, I felt that it was just as well to carry on immediately. This was right at the height of the corona pandemic.” 

The fact that the additional programme would mean a total of five years of study didn’t stop him.

“I talked to others who were taking master’s programmes in engineering. They also take five years, which will be the length of my student period. It’s not unusual.” 

When taking the programme in environmental sciences he also met several inspiring teachers and research teams.

“I wanted to work with them more”, he says. 

Measuring and collecting lake gases

He worked on his undergraduate project in collaboration with professors active in environmental sciences, mainly as part of the METLAKE project. 

“This is interesting and exciting research that is looking at methane in lakes such as Roxen, Vättern and Glan. I took a boat out on the lakes, set flow meters in place, collected gases, and measured methane and carbon dioxide levels. This is something I want to continue with in my master’s thesis.”

Methane is one of the greenhouse gases that has the greatest effect on global warming. It is also the greenhouse gas that has increased most in the atmosphere during the past 250 years, and freshwater lakes, streams and ponds are the second largest source of methane emissions. 

The measurement of methane emissions from the Swedish lakes is led by David Bastviken, professor in the Department of Thematic Studies – Environmental Change, who has also contributed to many methods used to investigate methane flows.

“Methane as a greenhouse gas is approximately 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. But people talk more about carbon dioxide than methane. This is why this research is so important”, says Filip.

Another exciting research project he is eager to describe concerns the development of a camera that can take photos and videos of methane with the aid of infrared light and modelling. The development of the camera is under the leadership of Magnus Gålfalk, lecturer in the Department of Thematic Studies – Environmental Change, whose background is in astronomy. 

“It should be possible to mount the camera on a drone and in this way film a lake in the winter”, says Filip. 

It’s obvious that the camera will open new possibilities in mapping and managing methane flows. 

“It’s great to be part of the rapid development that is happening in environmental sciences at the moment. This is a young scientific field compared to, for example, mathematics, which has been around for thousands of years. Environmental sciences has been studied for less than 100 years, and the knowledge we now possess has been available for less than 40 years. And knowledge is increasing rapidly. This is why this study programme feels very up-to-date. During the bachelor’s degree, I learnt about basic research, but now in the master’s I can contribute myself, and help to develop this young field of research.” 

An interdisciplinary perspective permeates the programme, and it can be combined with several other fields of research. 

“One of the students has previously studied interior design, and now wants to combine that with aspects of eco-friendliness and sustainability”, says Filip. 

Formulating problems that awaken new questions

He is convinced that it’s a good idea to find your own niche on the programme, and set ambitious goals. 

“You can determine the pace of study yourself, and it’s up to you to get a good result. Self-discipline is important, and the ability to challenge yourself. The exams are in the form of written reports we are to hand in. There are no written exams, which means that there are no standard questions we have to be able to answer. We must instead formulate the questions ourselves, and choose the methods we use in the assignments.” 

This is a problem-based way of working that gives insight into life as a researcher. 

“You have to answer your own questions. If you ask easy questions, it won’t be so difficult to answer them. But if you’re ready to challenge yourself, you can learn an incredible amount.” 

Is there a temptation to formulate questions that are too large?

“Oh yes – but we always write an assignment plan first and receive feedback from our teachers with advice about where to set limits. International students can initially find this study method very unfamiliar, but they soon get the hang of it. It’s difficult to find challenges for yourself. Environmental sciences is a complex research field that generates new questions all the time. There’s never one simple answer: it depends on the perspective. This is part of the complexity of the subject.” 

What will you be doing five years from now? 

“I have a dream of working on the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia, at a research centre. I have already written a bit about coral reefs in reports when working on, for example, statistics and geographical information systems (GIS). But if I stay in Sweden, I may continue to PhD studies. Otherwise, I want a job where I can do something for the climate, and feel satisfied with the work I’ve done. It could be in a lab, at an environmental consultancy, or for a county administrative board. What’s important is that I get to make the world a slightly better place.” 

What are your expectations for COP26 in Glasgow?

“These meetings are a really great idea and it’s particularly exciting that so many important people meet and discuss the environment. I am, however, rather pessimistic, since I know that there will always be more that must be done. Remember – we have known for nearly 40 years that environmental challenges were approaching. But you have to start somewhere, and I hope that more people will follow these meetings and become inspired.”

Translated by George Farrants

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