Greg Evans, Environmental Engineer

Keeping Eyes On Those Blue Skies

This engineer didn't reach his dreams of becoming a rock musician or professional soccer player... but did get to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.


Greg Evans is the Director of SOCAAR and a Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry at the University of Toronto. We asked him everything from what he is reading to what advice he would give to young researchers to give you a better understanding of what goes on outside the lab for one of the best minds in Canadian research.

What inspired you to become a researcher?
My original dream was to become a rock musician and I dropped out of school twice to pursue this. When I came back to university, I switched into Engineering and found that I really enjoyed it. I became turned on to research after second year, working as a Summer Research Assistant.

What do you like most about your work?
It’s always new and interesting. I am always learning and I love to share this learning; always being aware of how much more I have to learn makes me a better teacher.

What do you envision in the future of your field?
A world where everyone has clean air to breathe and a blue sky they can see. How’s that for blue sky thinking!

How will your research make a difference in people’s lives?
Air pollution contributes to so many chronic diseases. My hope is that my research will help people and countries make better choices so that we can enjoy healthier and longer lives.

What advice would you give to young researchers?
Find research topics that energize you, leverage your strengths, and let you make a real difference in the lives of other people.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro which is 6,000m high. My wife Ronda told me that this is where we would be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary and that she really hoped that I would be joining her at the top. It took us five days to get to the top but it was truly a beautiful and surreal experience; we summited at dawn on our anniversary and the full moon was setting on one side of the mountain as the sun rose on the other. The achievement aside, it was incredibly hard work and persuading myself to keep going pushed me to my limit. The scenery was incredible as we traveled through five climate zones; the temperature was +30°C when we started hiking and -30°C when we reached the summit.

What do you read?
Science journals

What natural talent would you like to be gifted with?
I would have loved to have the athletic ability to be a decent soccer player.

What’s on your iPod/CD collection/turntable?
I love to listen to music as I work. In terms of Canadian bands, I’m listening to Metric, Arcade Fire, and Hey Rosetta. I also listen to a lot of movie soundtracks, jazz, and classic rock. My choice depends on what I am working on. If the ideas are not flowing well, I switch music.

If you could do any profession other than your own what would it be?
I’m really happy doing what I’m doing now.

What do you like to do for fun?
I am a big soccer fan and love to watch Canada’s national women’s and men’s teams. I also watch the Toronto FC.

Do you have a favourite motto/words to live by?
We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.