The ‘Energy and Society’ class of 2017 – an introduction

A warm hello from Dr Abram’s fresh new arrivals onto this year’s Energy and Society course! We thought we’d take this opportunity to introduce ourselves with a little bit of background on who were are and were we come from which hopefully should add a bit of context to our blogging this year! The photo above shows us on our first site visit of the year, in the first week of term, joined by past students of Energy and Society Ahmed, Chima (featured) and Weni.

Building on from the blog’s inception and its successes last year we’re keen to build it further this year – growing and engaging with our wider audience, yourselves, with all the news of what we’re up to as well as special features on more personal interests we have been exploring in the world of Energy and Society.

First off though, we thought we would seize this opportunity to individually introduce ourselves – enabling our readers to put a face to a name on our future articles…


Mike Westrom

mike-readyMike comes from Chicago (USA) and joins the course with a background in mechanical engineering, having studied this at West Point in New York. A particular interest of Mike’s is renewable energy technology integration which he’s planning on exploring and furthering his knowledge this year on the Energy and Society course. Mike currently serves as a Lieutenant in the US Army and will be returning to the army following graduation.


Joshua Chong

josh-readyJosh grew up in Singapore but studied Sociology in the US at Buffalo State University in New York from where he graduated in 2013. When asked about his particular interests in Energy and Society Josh raised first what he considers a lacklustre change to alter our energy generation and consumption behaviours, despite what he describes as “well known knowledge of the need for change in this area”. He suggests “political and economic bottlenecks” as the reasons for this and looks forward to exploring this further on the Energy and Society course this year. Josh also believes in a need to re-evaluate our prirorities when it comes to environmental conservation, which we hope he will be writing about here in the future. Outside of his studies Josh has a passion for “anything to do with theatre” – a passion he has had since childhood.


Tom Riley

tom-readyTom is from Bristol, UK and has previously studied at Newcastle University gaining a BSc in Civil Engineering and Physical Geography. Stemming from experience in the oil and quarrying industries Tom’s specific interests lie in the transition of energy towards renewable alternatives in general but from a sustainable business standpoint as well. Outside of Energy and Society Tom takes a keen interest in travelling to regions with rich and different cultural backgrounds such as  Macedonia, Morocco and Dubai but also in sport; having represented Avon for hockey and Somerset for his cricket.


Rob Hinchley

rob-readyRob comes from Worcestershire, UK and previously studied Environmental Geography at UCL. Although not from an engineering background he has a long-standing interest in energy and energy production technologies and likes to think openly about finding solutions to energy problems, supply side and demand side. He explored a demand side solution in his final year at UCL with a dissertation that focused on quantifying the role of vegetation in countering the urban heat island effect, which poses a growing problem to cities around the world through unpleasantly warm air temperatures for inhabitants and increased electricity demands (through increased use of air-conditioning). He’s keen to broaden his horizons this year on the Energy and Society course and develop his technical and social understanding of energy as deeply as possible. Away from Energy and Society  Rob can often be found doing something to do with rowing and is coaching the development squad at Durham University this year, when he’s not doing this he loves walking, the outdoors and photography.


Hetty Gittus

hetty-readyHetty grew up near Bury St Edmunds (Suffolk) and studied at Durham University for her undergraduate degree – graduating earlier this year with a BA in Geography. She’s particularly drawn by the differing ways in which low carbon transitions manifest themselves and how they are shaped by the underlying socio-cultural context. She also has interests in Corporate Social Responsibility and the different manners in which firms approach it. Away from academia Hetty enjoys playing a range of sports, keenly supporting the Leicester Tigers as well as baking (which the rest of us are all hoping to sample the fruits of soon!).


Dr Simone Abram

simoneOur leader and course convener Dr Abram! Guiding us and leading us with her vast experience and understanding of the field of Energy and Society… We’re hoping to do an interview on Dr Abram’s current work later in the year.


Amit Karna

amit-readyAmit comes to London with five years experience working for the Nepal Electricity Authority, the organization responsible for generation, transmission and distribution of electrical energy in Nepal. Before this he gained a B.E. in Electrical Engineering followed by a M.Sc. in Power System Engineering from the Institute of Engineering, Pulchowk Campus in Nepal. Looking to broaden his horizons this year Amit is keen to learn more about the societal and environmental sides to energy production on the Energy and Society course. He’s also keen to travel when he has the chance to (off to see London this weekend for example) and make the most of his year at Durham.


Michelle Uriarte

michelle-readyMichelle was born in Mexico City, one of the biggest cities in the world but also one of the most energy hungry cities in the world! With a specialty in Social Responsibility and Renewable Energy Michelle studied Engineering in Sustainable Development for her undergraduate degree. These are exciting times for Mexico as the Mexican Government recently announced that foreign investment will be permitted in the energy industry for the first time in the nation’s history. Michelle explained passionately how “…We are going through an energy transition in Mexico that is not limited to the technical aspects of Energy, but also in the impacts it is having in society and how it could possibly change the future and potential of my country.”. As a student of Energy and Society Michelle aims “to understand from an anthropological and sociopolitical standpoint the impacts of consequences of this new energy transition”. Outside of her interests in Energy Michelle loves to dance, to read and to play video games (and is open to describing her self as being “a little bit of a nerd”).


Itzell Torres

itzell-readyItzell is also from Mexico but comes not from an engineering background but one of International Relations, having previously studied International Relations for her undergraduate degree in Mexico. As with Michelle Itzell is also fascinated by the impacts of Mexico’s energy reform on the society of Mexico but also with energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and looks forward to furthering her understanding of these this year. Outside of her studies Itzell likes hiking, photography and culture.


Rougang (Rick) Wang

rick-readyRick comes to Durham from studying Management and International Business at Royal Holloway, University of London where he chose to specialise in international business. His broad course in London covered all areas of management as well as marketing, consumption and strategy – all relevant to the world of Energy and Society. Rick believes the rising levels of energy consumption requires more reliable and efficient infrastructure and markets. Coming originally from China Rick mentions the “One Belt, One Road Initiative” development framework proposed by Xi Jinping to create a more efficient and better-integrated energy network around the globe. Rick looks forwarded to embarking on further research into the intricacies of the ‘OBOR’ project this year. He hopes to find out how and if cooperation like this would create affordable access to more energy resources and promote sustainable economic and social development for nations that participate in the initiative.


But that’s not necessarily all of us you’ll be hearing from this year! We hope to have colleagues from other masters courses writing for us as well who are joining us for particular modules…

Honorine Uwase

honorine-readyHonorine was born in Rwanda but has lived in the UK for the last 10 years and previously studied Sociology at Northumbria University. She is now on the Sustainability, Culture and Development MSc course at Durham this year and has chosen to join us for one of our core modules ‘Context and Challenges in Energy and Society’ led by Dr Abram this term. Outside of her studies Honorine is an entrepreneur, having set up her own small business earlier this year but also works for a charity.


Zhiling Ma

zhiling-readyAnd last but by no means least coming from Nei Mongal in China Zhiling is also joining us on the Context and Challenges in Energy and Society module this year and is joins Honorine on the Sustainability, Culture and Development MSc – we look forward to hearing from you soon Zhiling!



Stay tuned for updates from Energy and Society and one off features throughout the year…




A Socio-Technical Turbine


Inspecting the archimedes screw turbine at Freeman’s Reach

In bright sunshine today, we visited the hydro-electric turbine at Freeman’s Reach in central Durham. Students who have recently completed the course met new students, and we had a good look at the turbine.



site-visit in 2014

Things have certainly moved on since MSc students visited the site in 2014, when construction was in full flow. Then we saw the concrete channels being constructed and heard about the building of the ‘bat hotel’ under the site. Today the turbine is installed and commissioned, but a dry summer meant there was no action for us to see. We’ll look forward to coming back another day.

discussing turbines!

We an also look forward to the students taking over the blog very soon!