‘The Olympics for Climate Change’

Aman Shaikh (MEM ‘24) traveled to Dubai to experience COP28. Now he's focused on finding a way to mitigate climate change.

Aman Shaikh

When the new semester in Northwestern's Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program kicked off in January, Aman Shaikh (MEM ‘24) realized he was seeing his studies differently.

Shaikh is one of 12 Northwestern graduate students and faculty who traveled to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates late last year to take part in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 28th Conference of Parties (COP28).

The Northwestern contingent was part of a gathering of more than 80,000 policymakers, researchers, industry leaders, and activists who, along with leaders form nearly 200 countries, convened to discuss coordinated action to tackle climate change.

Shaikh said the scope of the event was beyond impressive.

“It is like the Olympics for climate change,” he said. “It felt like a big responsibility and an incredible learning opportunity for personal and professional growth.” 

The experience changed how Shaikh sees his MEM coursework, as well as his role in helping tackle the global climate conundrum.  

“This COP28 journey really reshaped my outlook for the rest of my time in the MEM program,” he said. “It's pushed me to think bigger and look for ways to incorporate what I've learned about global climate efforts into my studies. I've got this new lens to see my coursework through, one that's more globally aware and action-oriented.” 

Shaikh was selected to travel to Dubai through a detailed application process with Northwestern’s Buffett Institute for Global Affairs. He, three fellow Northwestern students, and three faculty members attended the first week of COP28, and a second contingent from the University took their place for the final week.

Shaikh said he jumped at the chance to apply because he wanted to see policymaking about a global concern up close.

“The sheer number of attendees underscored the vast array of perspectives converging in one location,” he said. “The idea of being part of such a significant gathering was not just exciting, but deeply motivating.”

While in Dubai, Shaikh heard from notable speakers, including Bill Gates and Hillary Clinton. He also observed negotiations, shared his thoughts in panel discussions, and attended events hosted by some of the world's preeminent climate leaders on topics ranging from exploitation of critical minerals to leveraging artificial intelligence for accessing climate transition data.

The event did create some mixed emotions for Shaikh.

On the one hand, he was excited and hopeful to see firsthand what the collaborative efforts of the world’s nations can accomplish when focused on such an important issue.

“Yet on the flip side, the sheer scale of the challenges we face hit hard,” he said. “It was a reality check, reminding me that despite our best efforts, the road ahead is long and fraught with obstacles.” 

Shaikh wants to travel that road and be part of the effort to clear those obstacles. Attending COP28 helped him more clearly see how technology can play a huge role in addressing climate change and the role engineers can play in getting hard work accomplished.

As he works toward his MEM graduation, Shaikh is committed to pursuing a job where he can continue to fight climate change professionally.

“I'm all about joining projects or teams that are tackling the big problems our planet faces,” he said. “COP28 showed me that, even though it's a massive challenge, there's hope if we all work together.”  

McCormick News Article