Two UNC-Chapel Hill undergraduate students will get hands-on, professional training this summer thanks to a new internship program funded by Pavel Molchanov, a Duke alumnus and senior vice president and equity research analyst at Raymond James & Associates. Cassidy Harding, a rising senior majoring in environmental science with minors in information science and geography; and Dylan Burns, a rising junior double majoring in environmental science and computer science, are the inaugural recipients. (Read more: Molchanov establishes environmental scholars program with $1 million gift in Campaign for Carolina)
The announcement was made at the 2019 UNC Clean Tech Summit by Molchanov, who was a featured speaker and guest. In his remarks, Molchanov expressed his motivation and excitement for developing the next generation of leaders in the field.
“As a student I wasn’t directly involved in environmental work, but I remember the importance of internships,” he says. “Internships were a key element of how my career got started.”
As an energy research analyst for the last 16 years, Molchanov has noticed a strong theme in the energy sector— the role that sustainability plays in decision making, both on the part of companies and the investors looking to allocate capital to these companies. In addition, he noted the significance of sustainability in the political and regulatory landscape.
“In that context, I strongly believe that it’s important to develop the next generation of leaders who will be able to understand and make decisions with awareness of environmental priorities,” Molchanov says. “Whatever role, whatever responsibilities they may ultimately have, whether it’s in industry, in finance, in government or in community organizations, having a strong grounding in environmental studies can be very useful.”
Increasing from the initial two students selected this year, in future years up to 10 undergraduate students will be matched with an environmental internship at one of the partner organizations in North Carolina, South Carolina or Virginia, where students can supplement their academic work with experiential, professional training. Each Molchanov Scholar will receive a $5,000 stipend to support their summer experience.
This summer, Harding will be a resilient landscapes intern with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), where she will be conducing independent research and geospatial analysis to determine where there are opportunities to protect, enhance, or restore ecosystems in Eastern North Carolina in ways that can help reduce flood risk and provide other ecosystem services such as clean water, wildlife habitat and recreation.
“I am exceedingly grateful for this scholarship,” she says. “It has provided me the opportunity to partner with a meaningful organization in my field and gain valuable experience prior to graduating. Moreover, I can help tackle local issues while refining my current set of skills.”
Burns will be an intern at Solar Operations Solutions, LLC, in Cornelius, NC. Burns will be monitoring the fleet of solar facilities managed by the company to detect any instances of underperformance, along with improving the performance reporting tools and databases to make them more suitable for analysis of long-term trends. He also will work with employees to help assemble or program the physical data acquisition systems boxes that are used as monitoring hardware at the solar facilities.
“I aspire to work in the renewable energy industry after I graduate, because this field lies at the intersection of my interests in technical science and math and promoting the energy transition,” he says. “The internship will allow me to explore my career path and provide me with valuable experience working in the industry, so I’m very grateful to have been selected. I’m looking forward to starting the position in a few weeks.”
Undergraduate students in any interdisciplinary degree program who want to understand and solve complex environmental issues can apply for the Molchanov Scholarship.
“In studying the environment, it is important to take a holistic approach so that students can have a broad understanding of how to apply environmental principles across many different facets of life,” Molchanov says. “My hope is that students who get the scholarship will have an opportunity to establish a foundation for a successful career in whatever field they end up working in.”