Since graduating from Porter Creek Secondary Nicolai Bronikowski has been working on ship design and transit studies. Through his work in Finland, Russia and Canada he showcases the Yukon’s strong science programs and growing potential as an Arctic research hub.

Bronikowski came to the Yukon in 2009 for an exchange year, after finishing Grade 9 in Germany. For his first semester, he joined the Social and Science Experimental Program (an outdoor experiential science program) at Porter Creek Secondary School.

He credits his teachers for helping him integrate and making him want to stick around. “I was under the great guidance of Mr. Andy Preto, who did a great deal in helping me learn English by pronouncing all the names for the objects we came across in the many outdoor trips of the program. His support and teaching capacity brought me close with the Yukon’s beauty and the people,” says Bronikowski.

He graduated from Porter Creek in 2012 with a newfound passion for the Arctic.

“Through my experience living and graduating from high school in the Yukon I have developed a deep connection with the Northern frontier,” he says.

He went on to study engineering at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN), and has spent close to two years working in Arctic research as well as taking exchange studies and courses in engineering and geography focussed on the Arctic.

The engineering program at MUN is special in the sense that it requires at least four internships to graduate, but most students take five or six. This means that all students have up to two years of work experience when they graduate, giving them an edge in figuring out what they like to do and with finding jobs.

He started his Arctic research as an intern with AKAC Inc. – a small engineering consulting office in Victoria, B.C. specialized in operational ice management. While with AKAC he developed a risk management suite for ice operations with the goal of helping companies evaluate the risks of their operations based on location, mission profile, environmental data and equipment such as icebreakers and support vessels.

“I really enjoyed that work because I got to do a project from concept to finish and I felt I made a difference providing a new safety evaluation tool to the marine industry when operating in northern areas,” he says.

After a year of trying out ship design and engineering work he was given a once-in-a-lifetime chance in the field that he loves. He secured a one year trainee position with Aker Arctic Technology in Finland. Aker Arctic (which acquired AKAC Inc. in 2015) designed about 60 per cent of the world’s icebreaking vessels and is a big partner in ice research in the marine industry.

“At Aker Arctic, I worked for over eight months in an ice research model basin, testing dozens of vessel designs for ice performance. I also was able to pursue my own research.”

He conducted several ice tests with ice ridges, aimed at improving both the testing and calculation procedures involved in such tests.

“It was a very exciting time for a young student like me to be given that much responsibility and to see my own ideas come to life,” Bronikowski says.

He’s interested in looking at ways to improve understanding of the Arctic by implementing people who have experience operating in the Arctic, rather than relying on outsiders. He says that he was told that there is currently no joint interest in the declining offshore industry. (The offshore industry means business operating in open ocean and sea ice environments).

He remains optimistic and he hopes to one day create an Arctic experience centre in the Yukon. “My goal in the long term is to communicate my experience and that of other people with the relevant Arctic Council groups. I believe that bringing together the experience from all the past years in the Arctic will be helpful to make policy to prevent future mistakes and secure the future of the pristine environment.”