I attended Mississippi State University with the intention of completing my Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering before transitioning into medical school. However, upon conclusion of my junior year, I made the decision to explore my childhood curiosity in Renewable Energy and Sustainability. Although MSU was not widely known for its renewables program, some of the best pieces of advice I received from one of my professors/mentors was to focus my efforts on gaining fundamental knowledge within the Mechanical Engineering department. In addition, I took advantage of a summer study abroad opportunity in Scandinavia, to experience globally ‘best-in-class’ renewable energy sources in environments specializing in the field; such as, geothermal energy in Iceland, wind energy in Denmark and hydroelectric energy in Sweden. This experience further expanded my interest to pursue Renewable Energy and Sustainability. I graduated from Mississippi State University with a BS in Biological Engineering where many of my electives focused on Heat Transfer, Engineering Mechanics and Differential Equations.
Did you consider other institutions for the program, and why did you choose Illinois?
There were a few other institutions that I considered for the program, but Illinois had always been my top choice. My decision narrowed after my Spring Visit Day at UIUC in April 2019. I had the pleasure of meeting Amy McCullough, Professors Abelson and Singer, as well other students already in the program. I immediately witnessed their passion and wisdom around Renewable Energy promoting an incredible learning environment. After meeting the students and faculty, while gaining a glimpse of how significantly they will aid my growth, I quickly decided that the Energy Systems program at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign was my only choice for my graduate degree.
What made you decide to pursue Energy Systems?
My continuously growing curiosity in sustainability is a result of my initial, childlike interest being influenced by my family’s consistent, sustainable and resource efficient practices; along with the importance of sustainability and renewables in the locations I have lived. As my understanding of global climate issues developed, and my interest in engineering came into fruition, Energy Systems provides a means to merge my interests into a career. I believe sustainable practices, in conjunction with renewable techniques, will inevitably impact our society in an astounding way.
What type of professional development you want to complete as part of the degree program (project, practicum, or coursework), and why?
Currently, I am fulfilling the Business Management Certificate for Graduate Students, to enable my understanding of managing my own business and the overall operations in industry. Completing the Certificate provides additional flexibility in my professional development requirement for the Degree, allowing for further internship or specialized work opportunities. I am confident the experience I gain while completing the UIUC Energy Systems program will enable me substantial insight into the Renewable Energy and Sustainability sector.
What type of energy-related projects are you involved in on campus?
Throughout the semester, professors will insist upon exploration into different interest areas through term papers and projects. For example, I am currently studying the potential application of Transparent Solar Panels within residential and commercial buildings; along with designing and determining the feasibility of a grid-tied Solar system atop an existing campus building. Select projects will expand knowledge and understanding within your interest areas and provide sufficient practice for possible future applications. After having established a foothold in a new environment this first semester, I plan to become involved in Students for a Sustainable Campus (SSC) and Solar Decathlon starting the back half of this school year.
What do you hope to do with the degree once you earn it?
After having lived in Parma, Italy and Geneva, Switzerland, I have always had a passion to be in places of scenic beauty and cultural intrigue. My vision upon graduation from UIUC is in the renewable energy industry near Seattle, Washington or Portland, Oregon; however, I will not limit my possibilities. I plan to integrate the wisdom bestowed onto me by my peers and professors, from my brief time at UIUC, along with my learnings from Scandinavia, to further develop the Renewable Energy and Sustainability industry. The lasting relationships created, through the university, will enable our ability to impact our society utilizing sustainability and sustainable energy.
What is your favorite place in Champaign-Urbana?
Champaign-Urbana is beautiful, with plenty of activities happening regularly. My three (3) favorite locations on or near campus include: the quiet, Urbana streets east of Lincoln Avenue, between Springfield and Florida Avenue; UIUC’s Main Quad, especially during an event; and a gorgeous passive solar home in a neighborhood in Urbana. The streets in Urbana are beautifully canopied by trees that, in the fall, change colors, creating a colorful and peaceful ambiance during some of my walks/drives home from class. The Main Quad is a lovely area to find yourself with plenty of different cultured events, space to relax between classes, and a common passing point between class travels. One event I vividly remember was the Diwali Celebration in October. Lit tea candles spanned across the Main Quad with lights atop Foellinger Auditorium, creating an incredible atmosphere. People, of varying cultures and beliefs, celebrated together for this beautiful festival – a recurring theme at UIUC. The passive solar home in Urbana greatly influenced my desire to explore Sustainable Architecture, enabling my ability to witness the intricate details involved in sustainable and renewable design and the effects of being near-net-zero.