Medal winner looking ahead

Whether cleaning hallways or helping to clean up the environment, international student and recent master's medal-winning graduate Olufemi "Femi" Aiyegbusi (MSc '13) finds a way to create a lasting impact.

Aiyegbusi, a Nigerian student who completed an undergraduate degree in economics at Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria in 2005, came to the University of Lethbridge to pursue a master's of science in management. His wife, Titi Babalola Aiyegbusi, who is currently working on a master's degree in English, also made the trek to Canada.

Throughout his time at the U of L, Aiyegbusi has supported his family and paid for his education by working as a campus caretaker. Facilities Caretaking Manager Judy Jaeger regards him as one of her best workers and an exemplary student.

Olufemi Aiyegbusi, left, with Facilities Caretaking Manager Judy Jaeger.

"Femi appreciates where he is from and where he is going," says Jaeger. "He is very determined and always thinks of others and how his actions will impact them. He is a great person."

Femi credits his thesis supervisor, Dr. Rossitsa Yalamova, as being a significant force in his success in the master's program.

"Dr. Yalamova was my supervisor and primarily drove me to participate in all the summer schools and conferences," says Femi. "I also wrote and presented papers with her staunch guidance. She personally mentored and exposed me to the field of complex systems and agent-based modelling, and (together with my readers) played a very crucial role in the crystallization of my research trajectory. I was blessed with a committee that genuinely cares about my success."

In summer 2012, Aiyegbusi successfully competed for a full scholarship to attend the Global Sustainability Summer School at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change Research in Germany. He was one of 20 students selected worldwide and says the experience was a turning point in his master's research.

"It was a really great experience for me," says Aiyegbusi. "I was exposed to so many ideas and perspectives from people in many different disciplines – physics, biology, economics, humanities, sciences, the arts…"

He says the feedback and perspective offered from these multiple sources prompted him to make significant changes to his project work.

"I went there with a 70-page thesis, and I ended up discarding most of it. The people I met asked me so many questions about my work and whether I'd thought about this or that, I really felt I had to make some major changes."

The thesis, The Alberta Carbon Market: An Exploration of Alternative Policy Options through Agent-Based Modeling, attempts to build a framework examining scenarios and recommending solutions for economic growth coupled with low carbon emissions. Carbon markets or carbon trading are voluntary systems that set limits on carbon emissions, allowing member companies to "sell off" emissions credits to other firms when they come in below limits, or to buy additional credits from others if they are high.

While at the Potsdam summer school, Aiyegbusi completed a crash course in computer programming and, using a tool called NetLogo, was able to create a model that would test his theories, allowing him to make recommendations for carbon emissions policy and legislation.

"This has the potential to be a good strategic tool for companies wanting to manage their emissions," says Aiyegbusi. "It's good to get the research out there to people who will use it."

While his thesis focused on the Alberta carbon market, he hopes to eventually see his research applied to the larger, more complex European markets.

"I chose to base the study initially on Alberta, as I felt it would be nice to do something for this community, and we need to understand simple systems first," he says. "Also, there are policy recommendations that could be of benefit to lawmakers. I thought it would be good to have research that informs legislation."

Faculty of Management professor Dr. John Usher, one of the readers for Femi's thesis, characterizes him as "intensely motivated and very focused."

"His MSc course work outputs in my class were thorough and innovative," says Usher. "His thesis work demonstrated both a keen analytical mind and a big-picture strategic orientation to his interest in carbon trading."

Aiyegbusi convocated in May and received the School of Graduate Studies Medal of Merit.

With the success of his thesis work, Aiyegbusi has also been accepted to present a paper at the 2013 meeting of the Administrative Sciences Association of Canada. He will also attend another summer school in the UK on greenhouse gas capture and storage.

Aiyegbusi has additionally distinguished himself by earning a full scholarship to complete a PhD program at top-ranked Bocconi University in Milan, Italy, and will commence studies in September 2013. He hopes to eventually pursue a career in academia.