Name: Laura Supple
Year: Class of 2018
Hometown: Shelburne, Vermont
Intended Path of Study: Environmental Engineering
As an environmental engineering student with a minor in engineering for sustainable development, I see my summers as important opportunities to both apply my knowledge from the classroom and take advantage of learning opportunities the classroom can’t offer. After previous research experiences in urban water systems and extensive volunteer work in sustainable agriculture, I was looking to spend the summer before my last year of undergrad exploring a different sector of sustainable engineering. A former advisor informed me of one final spot in the WINDINSPIRE program, an NSF-funded collaboration between several universities in the United States and Europe aiming to solve the technological, operational, and economic barriers to wind energy. In addition to bringing together some of the world’s leading researchers on wind energy in a variety of disciplines, WINDINSPIRE sponsors international research programs to provide undergraduate and graduate students from participating universities the opportunity to work with researchers abroad. For me, it was the perfect chance to broaden my work in sustainable engineering from a new technical and cultural perspective, and within weeks my flights were booked to Madrid, Spain, where I would work as a research assistant at the Comillas Pontifical University Institute for Research in Technology.
I was given the choice of a few ongoing initiatives at Comillas, and decided to work on a new research project investigating cost allocation mechanisms for new electric grid infrastructure to promote renewable energy through internalization of the social costs of oil and coal-fired electricity. Through this research I’ve been able to work with brilliant scientists, engineers, and economists from around the world, brought together by their pursuit of common solutions to large-scale challenges. Through the WINDINSPIRE program I’ve also been able to participate in two international wind energy conferences – the WINDFARMS 2017 Conference hosted in Madrid and the Wind Energy Science Conference hosted in Copenhagen– giving me the rare chance as an undergraduate to view topics of public policy, technology, and environmental science from the perspective of the researchers, where the unknown is just a new opportunity for discovery. My experience with WINDINSPIRE has given me invaluable exposure to the world of research and new perspectives to create an academically, socially, and culturally thrilling summer!