Blog #4 – End of Summer!

I’m in my final two weeks of the internship! It’s been such an incredible and interesting journey. I am now back in Berkeley, and I wish I could go into the lab even though people on my team aren’t even working at the office, so I know it won’t be possible this time. Hopefully I am able to visit the lab after the internship is over, though, since I would love to see where the work takes place usually!

For my last weeks, I have been learning more about the impacts of wildfires and PSPS (Public Safety Power Shutoffs). My report is looking good, and I am going to focus the last week on finalizing both my EV and wildfire report.  I also want to start planning for my final presentation with Cal Energy Corps as well as my publication for the Berkeley Lab.

This project has felt heavy in the past two weeks because of how drastic recent wildfires have been.  The Dixie Fire, just north of us, has spread to 500,000 acres and is only 21% contained. Homes, schools, and all sorts of infrastructure have been destroyed, and neighboring areas are experiencing terrible air quality.  It’s scary and sad to witness these types of wildfires and is also why this kind of research can be difficult. A lot of my critiques with Economics come from the idea of “quantifying” everything. As I talked about in my past report, many economists only think in numbers and values, though in times like this we should remember these numbers are people, families, homes and lives lost. Sometimes, it feels impossible to reduce these human experiences to a number. This has been a challenge of working on this project, but I have tried to reconcile that by including a mix of numbers as well as stories in my final report. I think it is important for researchers to remember who and why we do this research. 

In this last week, I have been trying to solidify my reports, and I am also working on a final presentation to give to my mentors Bin and Wanshi about the process and summary of my work this summer. I am so grateful for this experience, though it has definitely felt different in its online format. If anything, the summer went by so fast, and I can’t believe I’m at the end of the internship.

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to participate in this internship is because of the hands-on experience I would get being an economist. In the past, I have used my economic skills in ways that seem intangible and not important to me. It feels really good to be using my skills for climate research, something I care deeply about. Though, as I talked about throughout the internship, the idea of reducing people to numbers is difficult in any economic field.  This is a great experience for me to feel what it means to be an economist and contribute in different ways. When I first started, Bin and Wanshi trusted my knowledge in economics and gave me the freedom to explore how I would contribute. Throughout the internship, I feel that I have learned what it really means to contribute and learn as an economist in a research and science-based lab. After 8 weeks, I am proud to say I am a researcher AND an economist, and I am so excited to continue this journey. 

To conclude, I want to extend my deepest gratitude to Wanshi and Bin, who guided me through the entire internship. They were there for all my questions and inspired me and encouraged me to continue to grow. I am also so honored to be a part of the Cal Energy Corps program alongside other incredible interns. Thank you everyone for a great summer!