This summer, I worked in the Precourt Institute for Energy on their Low-Cost Greenhouse for Emerging Economies project. As a summer Research Engineer, I worked on a variety of sub-projects to help make the Structure more viable. I performed some structural engineering and analysis on the overall building itself, investigated the potential viability of using acoustics to determine produce quality, and even helped build test rigs for some growing optimization experiments. Additionally, I was afforded the opportunity to work with our partners in India on developing our project.
Given the wide variety of projects I was working on, no two days were exactly the same. Some days, I was working on a computer making structural models in Solidworks and was performing computational fluid dynamics and finite element analyses to determine weak points in the structure. Other days, I was getting my hands dirty in room 36 of the PRL and Lab 64 in Packard working on setting up circuits to test ultrasound sensors. And still on others, I was communicating with our partner team in India to establish project goals and share updates. It’s definitely been far from a boring summer!
I think the most surprising aspect of my research this summer has been the freedom to pursue my work independently. Initially, I thought that I would come into work each day and would receive some sort of marching orders from my Principal Investigator. However, that has been far from the case; I’ve been given great latitude in how I spend my time at work. Sure, I have regular project check-ins to set goals for the week, but aside from that, how I choose to spend my time, or what projects I choose to work on is entirely up to me. Additionally, I have been given a lot of autonomy over my projects; I’m considered the expert on these projects and am trusted to produce work equal to that of the full-time researchers. Having that trust this summer has been a very rewarding experience.
I feel very fortunate for my work this summer. I have learned a lot of engineering skills that I didn’t have before, and have learned a lot about leading projects and developing reasonable plans of action. I know all I’ve learned from this experience will follow me beyond this summer, and for that I am truly grateful.