School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Mandy St. Rose

Visiting Research Student

Mandy St.Rose

Meet Mandy St.Rose

Meet Mandy St.Rose - Visiting Civil Engineering Master's Student from the University of West Indies

By Amelia Hamfelt, May 2014

Bright blue waters and white sand beaches – that is the image that comes to mind for most people when they think of the Caribbean.  Most people never consider the plastic disposal problems and the environmental challenges the region faces. Mandy St. Rose, however, is not most people. A visiting Master’s student in Civil Engineering, Mandy has come to Queen’s to investigate solutions for the ever-pressing problem of plastic refuse littering the streets and waterways of third world nations. Such solutions are necessary due to limited land space, pressured economies and high transportation costs. Her thesis involves collecting plastic recycling and incorporating the material into concrete. The result is a fairly ductile construction material that can be used for architectural applications, such as park benches, paving stones and street curbs.

Mandy at work in the lab

“The processing is a means of locking the plastic away from the environment.” says Mandy, “In the long run the alkaline in the concrete does react with the plastic. After a certain amount of time you end up having the concrete almost back to its original state because the plastic will have deteriorated.”

Mandy in the lab (L-R) weighing thickness of plastic; weighing prepared plastick; drying sand as part of the aggregate testing

Her idea for such an economical,repurposing of waste materials came to her in a manner as effortless as the tide. In a banal moment of surveying her surroundings, Mandy witnessed empty pop bottles floating near her feet after a heavy rain. Despite the commonality of the experience, Mandy felt inspired to pursue her Master’s – a dream she has always had – and address the environmental issues her nation is faced with everyday. Some time later she found herself at the University of West Indies discussing her thesis prospects with one of her professors. She just happened to be wearing a Heineken T-shirt that day, which prompted her professor to ask “Did you know you can incorporate plastic bottles into concrete?” This simple question then lead to hours of research and a formulated thesis topic that brought her 2500 miles to Queen’s. While chance may seem to be at play, Mandy is more convinced that faith played a role.

“I feel like I have been given a second lease on life.” says Mandy, “ I finally feel like I am at peace, like I am in the place I am supposed to be.”

Yet, the life-changing experience Mandy has had at Queen’s can’t be wholly attributed to her academics. Since taking up her studies here, Mandy has participated in numerous extracurricular, personal and professional development activities offered on campus, as well as been a part of the Kingston Student Housing Co-operative.

Mandy with friends (L-R) Mandy with friends in Ottawa and Cataraqui Reserve

“I finally understand what the life-work balance truly means.” says Mandy, “Meeting different people, while engaged in diverse activities makes you understand who you are and where you came from and how you think and what the differences between people of different cultures are.”

When Mandy leaves Kingston in the coming months, she will be leaving with a renewed sense of purpose. Her experience of learning, teaching and living at Queen’s has inspired her to pursue her doctorate, and as with her first bout of inspiration, we can be assured that great things will follow.