What is your previous work experience? Please describe.
During my undergraduate studies at UCLA, my broad and ever-changing interests were strongly reflected in the work I did outside of school. For a summer internship, I completed a training program at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Computation Department, where I learned the ins and outs of some of the world's largest supercomputers. For my senior capstone project, I helped guide scale-up efforts for a community-based reforestation effort, called the Ebony Project, in the tropical rainforests of Cameroon.
After graduation, I helped design an environmental education and carbon offset platform for religious organizations, which present a very unique set of advantages and constraints in the context of environmental issues. Most recently, I returned to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Environmental Restoration Department, where I used my more technical programming and engineering skills to help them optimize the effectiveness of their groundwater and soil vapor treatment systems for toxic contaminants.
Why did you choose the Nicholas School?
In addition to the fact that the Nicholas School offers one of the strongest environmental and forestry programs in the country, I chose to join this institution because of the tremendous amount of support I felt from the very beginning of the admissions process. We received consistent communication about our tasks, resources, and opportunities, as well as the general structure and timeline of our programs. The individual faculty and staff were incredibly proactive, responsive, and helpful, even in the face of a global pandemic. Everyone seemed to care a lot - not only about their roles as environmental leaders, but also about me.
The MEM/MF program structure also offers a level of diversity and flexibility that not many other programs do; it allows students to broaden or narrow the scope of their studies as much as they want to, preparing us for whatever path we choose to take afterwards. The program requirements are well-developed but allow for an incredible amount of creativity and autonomy.
What are you looking forward to as a new Nicholas School student?
I am most looking forward to sharing my graduate school experience with the Nicholas School's passionate global community of students, faculty, and staff. I am excited to be surrounded by people who all share my vision for a sustainable future, and are actually working towards making it a reality. I am particularly eager to expand my understanding of environmental systems beyond the lens of my personal experiences in engineering and forestry. I hope to do this through both the structured and informal collaboration that the Nicholas School facilitates between peers and mentors. One of my favorite parts of being in this kind of environment is everything that seemingly happens by chance, but is actually the result of amazing people coming together do amazing things - for example, those fleeting hallway conversations that end up growing into years-long research projects.
I also plan to take full advantage of both the financial and academic resources that the Nicholas School has to offer, particularly to hone my research and analysis skills so that I can produce a publishable master's project and obtain my GIS Certificate.
Do you have any areas of interest or special focus you will undertake during your time at the Nicholas School?
Throughout coming years, I would like to explore how we can use agroforestry as a tool for reforestation and sustainable development - particularly in tropical regions, which are home to some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and impoverished communities in the world. I am most curious about how the design and management of different agroforestry systems sets them apart from each other, in terms of ecological structure and function, and how we can manipulate those variables to optimize what agroforestry systems do for us. For my master's project, I plan to conduct research that compares the quality of ecosystem services and products that different types of agroforestry systems provide - for example, the nutritional content of their fruit or the health of their soil fungal populations. I hope that my research will help expand our ability to achieve location-specific results with agroforestry, so we can address the unique needs and constraints of different communities across the globe.
What plans do you have for your career after the Nicholas School?
I want to use my time at Duke to lay the groundwork for both a PhD and a career in agroforestry research and activism. Going forward, I hope to not only advance scientific understanding in my field, but also apply it to improve real-life farming and forestry practices in rural communities across the globe. My dream is to develop a program that gives farmers the education, technology, and infrastructure they need to implement the most effective agroforestry practices for their communities - to help them lastingly improve their own livelihoods and mitigate global environmental issues at the same time.
I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to the donors of the Nicholas Scholars program.
Your support is what has made all of this possible for me. This scholarship will give me the resources to fully engage in the work that lies ahead of me, as well as all the challenges and rewards that come with along it. Thank you for giving me this incredible opportunity to study at a top-tier institution with some of the most passionate and brilliant environmental leaders of our time - an opportunity that I otherwise might not have been able to pursue.