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My name is Mitalie Makhani and I’m a PhD candidate (Renewable Resources) at McGill University and this past year has been an enriching experience for me! During a meeting in August 2015, my supervisor offered me a position as a project manager with BioFuelNet (BFN). In considering this position, I remembered a quote by Sir Richard Branson: “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes… then learn how to do it later”.

Shortly after, I gladly accepted the offer since I’m always looking for new challenges and it has been an exciting one! I have had the privilege of working with BFN researchers in Project 8: Life Cycle Analysis And Microeconomics. This project is particularly special because it incorporates many of the other BFN projects together to achieve the overall goal of developing economically and environmentally sustainable technologies for delivering biofuels in Canada.

My aim is to optimize every learning opportunity that will help me to assist the Project 8 members in achieving their goals. I was recently awarded with an HQP Travel Grant and had a chance to attend the third annual Strategic Business Summit (SBS) meeting, hosted by BFN in Vancouver, British Columbia from December 2-3, 2015.

The purpose of this meeting was to gather the project leads and task forces to form active engagement and discussion with participants to develop strategic directions so that BFN can move forward into phase II of its funding. The two-day summit was also an awesome networking opportunity to get feedback from researchers, industry leaders and government representatives. This was exciting for me since it was my first time visiting Vancouver and I knew this event would be vital for me to learn more about what strategies are required to create a competitive Canadian bioeconomy while learning about the challenges faced by the industry.

Participants during the BFN Strategic Business Summit 2015

On the first day, project leaders shared the main points related to project plans for BFN’s Cycle 2 (2017-2022). The main objective for Project 8 was to analyze the environmental and economic impacts of feedstocks for biorefining and biofuel products.  I learned that it would be important for us to also include social indicators such as social acceptability and consumer willingness to use biofuels in our agenda.

We also participated in a task force (TF) workshop where TF leaders described their task forces and participants provided critical and constructive feedback. On the last day of the summit TF leaders and Project leaders provided feedback consolidation and shared their thoughts about how project priorities could be fine-tuned based on feedback from the workshops held the previous day. Overall, the SBS meeting in Vancouver was a productive and worthwhile experience! I definitely gained a better understanding of the current state of Canada’s bioeconomy and the necessary steps needed for advancement.

I’m glad I said “yes” to the job offer when it was presented to me because I can attribute much of my personal and professional development to this role. It’s also given me tremendous perspective in terms of where I see myself in the future and it’s a great opportunity for skill development, something that will be valuable once I enter the workforce. I’m extremely interested in entrepreneurship and have a particular fascination with merging science and technology with business to create sustainable solutions in the waste management sector.

I’ve met many brilliant minds within the BFN network that are truly inspiring and hard working, and I’ve noticed that I carry that work ethic into my PhD and entrepreneurial endeavors. I’d like to thank BFN for awarding me with an HQP Travel Grant and I look forward to continuing my journey with BFN as it paves the way for an advanced Canadian bioeconomy via research, knowledge translation and training. As encouraged by Sir Richard Branson, the future lies in our hands and we can start to make a difference now by seizing each and every opportunity!

Participants at the BFN Strategic Business Summit 2015.

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