Suman Bhattacharyya receives 2023 Sandy Lapsky Award

We are pleased to announce that PhD candidate Suman Bhattacharyya is the recipient of the 2023 Sandy Lapsky Award. Established in 2022, this award honours outstanding international graduate students in UBC’s Geography department.

Combining a background in hydrological sciences and an interest in climate change, Suman Bhattacharyya (he/him) is pursuing his PhD under the supervision of Dr. Marwan Hassan, studying how climate change and regional landscapes impact hydrological extremes like drought and flooding. Bhattacharyya’s research is revealing patterns on a global scale. Across a broad range of landscapes, a variety of patterns are emerging related to extreme events. Regions are being affected differently by climate change. 

“If we know how local landscapes or regional geomorphic settings influence these extremes it will help us better prepare for these types of events, especially when facing the challenges of climate change,” says Bhattacharyya. 

This type of analysis could be most helpful to developing countries and mountainous regions that experience more of these extreme events but have limited data available over space and time. Using statistical and machine learning models, Bhattacharyya’s project will analyze data collected from around the world to study how extreme events like droughts and flooding are changing under present and future climate change. He is interested in studying how fundamental hydrological components, such as rainfall, snowfall, and streamflow are affected due to changes in climate and land use. 

Originally hailing from India and one year into his PhD studies, Bhattacharyya is starting to feel more at home in a new culture and academic setting.  

“Despite the challenges you face as an international student new to Canada and UBC, my transition has been positive because the whole department of Geography is very supportive, they’re like family,” reflects Bhattacharyya.  

Funds for the award generously bestowed by the department’s longtime head administrator Sandy Lapsky, she was inspired to give back to both the department and its international student community. No stranger to the experience of starting anew as a former international student herself, Sandy hopes that this award will help soften the landing for international students and recognize their important work. 

“As an international student, you are in a new culture and learning new things. An award like this tells you that your research is valuable, that you are on the right track. It really boosts your confidence. It’s wonderful validation,” says Bhattacharyya.  

Grateful to be acknowledged with this accolade, Bhattacharyya is deeply committed to and excited by the work he and the Hassan group are doing. 

“Marwan Hassan is a gift in my life, I’m so grateful to be working with him. Not only is he a wonderful supervisor but also a friend. His door is always open for his students. With the reputation Marwan has in the field of physical geography, it’s a very big accomplishment to be able to work and collaborate with him,” says Bhattacharyya.  

The broad range of students and the various bodies of research ongoing in the department of Geography continue to inspire Bhattacharyya in his work.  

“It’s always so interesting and encouraging to get together with all these diverse colleagues to learn from each other,” he says. 

Passionate about academia, Bhattacharyya hopes to build upon the important work he is doing now to one day start his own research group. We are thrilled to see Bhattacharyya’s pursuits honoured with this award and are keen to see how his projects develop.