Maya Kaperick was deeply immersed in undergraduate engineering courses when she began to feel a little restless. She realized she wanted to study a more diverse range of subjects.
“I have always wanted to double major but couldn’t find a realistic schedule that included everything I wanted, which was how ICP came about,” Maya says. “I really just love to learn, so regardless of the topic, I strive to make connections to other disciplines so I can create a new perspective.”
Exploring a Different Side of Engineering
The Inter-College Program major allowed Maya to combine her interests in mechanical engineering, environmental geography, and policy to address issues like climate change and sustainability.
“The through line I saw between these three fields is the first theme: understanding how things work mechanically or electrically. How are the systems designed? What are they designed for?"
The second theme is understanding the impact of geography, especially in the context of renewable energy. How do you optimize the engineered systems based on their location? For example, different types of solar panels perform better at higher humidity levels based on the way they were engineered. So the type of panels you ideally want to use in the northern US may differ from sites in more humid climates.
Thirdly, Maya aims to use this combination of technical expertise and a liberal arts education can inform thoughtful policy recommendations. "How are we taking an integrated understanding of sustainable energy, environmental justice, and technical feasibility to legislators, providing them with more interdisciplinary information to base their decisions on, thereby creating a holistic view of the issue and action plan?”
Maya currently works as an asset management associate with National Grid Renewables, where she interned last summer. She analyzes the performance and energy generation of the company’s sites throughout the year. “My team works with engineering and meteorology teams to analyze the amount of energy that can be generated based on equipment and incoming weather patterns. How is a plant performing today? How do we help support the site team for tomorrow, or the coming week?”
Her job and her company’s mission are very closely related to all three independent sectors of her degree, which she was not really expecting.
“Classes and schoolwork in general have been very applicable to my job,” she says, “sometimes in very direct ways. There were a couple of times where we talked about how a gearbox gear or software package works in class, and then I saw the direct application at work.”
Other times the connection is more general, like developing good working habits, taking notes, or being able to think critically through a problem. Maya has been “surprised by the amount of overlap” that became clear as she formalized the concentration areas of her degree.
“I think the ICP provided a very nice, broad, and simultaneously detailed foundation for figuring out where I wanted to land in the future. There are a lot of different paths I could pursue, but I really value having a diverse foundation of knowledge and experience to build from.”
One Important (and Surprising) Takeaway
To be able to communicate in a clear way is the most valuable lesson she learned from her education. This goes beyond “saying a bunch of big words and knowing what they mean” but understanding how to “share a message with someone in a way that they can access, regardless of their background."
Through her student group, she was involved with a lot of diversity, equity, and inclusion work, focusing on these questions: How do we help people the way they want to be helped? How do we think about the language we're using in interactions across different contexts?
"Intentional communication is paramount, regardless of your field.“
3 Pro Tips for Students
- “Put effort into thinking about something from a different perspective, even if it's a strongly-held belief. I think it's a really valuable skill that allows you to learn from others, learn about yourself, and ultimately be a better team member, in work, life, etc."
- "Don't be afraid to connect things that may not seem connected at a surface level. I'm passionate about these three areas. I found a way to connect them in a way that makes sense. You don't need to pigeonhole yourself if you don't think other people are going to see those connections. You're the one creating those connections for them.”
- "Find a mentor that you relate to! They don’t necessarily have to be in your field. Try to be open to people who share your outlook on life. I found a wonderful mentor and friend through the CCAPS Mentor Program. Not only do they help provide a structure to the mentorship through regular check-ins and events (can be completely virtual), but they put a lot of time into seeking out a mentor who will fit with you. For me, they found someone who wasn’t even part of the program yet, asking them to join in order to be my mentor because they thought we would get along. We absolutely did and it was a great experience.”
Geography of Environmental Systems and Global Change with Katherine Klink
“The class essentially walked you through the detailed process of climate change: Here's how it impacts things; here's how to dive into it on a geographic basis; and here's what we can do about it, which I expanded upon by pulling in coursework from my engineering classes. This class greatly expanded my vocabulary of environmental phenomena.”
Topics in Carbon Neutrality with Fred Rose
“This was through a program called Clean Energy Leaders* and was a really fascinating class that analyzed more of the mechanisms that create change on a policy level. This was the first policy class I took and made me excited to take more in the future.”
Germany Leading the Renewables Revolution with Sabina Engel
“I also did a study abroad course this January where we went to Germany for two weeks and analyzed several of their climate change action policies, which was pretty fascinating. Comparing cultural and societal differences regarding sustainability provided another context where my interests in geography and policy overlapped with more technical engineering principles.”
Maya is a recipient of a CCAPS scholarship.
* Clean Energy Leaders
Hosted by Aaron Hanson through the Institute on the Environment, Clean Energy Leaders is a program that selects 15 to 20 students to learn about climate policy, sustainability, and clean energy. Each student receives a stipend to support them during an internship or leadership project. Students gain the skills and hands-on experiences needed to become leaders in clean energy.