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Inaugural Molchanov Scholars share their summer internship experiences

July 15, 2019 Cassidy Harding at her internship.

Inaugural Molchanov Scholars Cassidy Harding ’19 and Dylan Burns ’21 discuss their summer internships in this Postcard from the Field. Funded by a $1 million gift from Pavel Molchanov, the program matches undergraduate students with environmental internships where students can supplement their academic work with experiential, professional training.

This summer, Harding is a resilient landscapes intern with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), where she is conducting 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.

Burns is an intern at Solar Operations Solutions, LLC, in Cornelius, NC. Burns is 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.


Name: Cassidy Harding
Major: Environmental Science B.S.
Expected graduation date: December 2019

Why did you decide to pursue landscape analysis and ecosystem restoration?

I have maintained a passion for environmental science since the beginning of my college career, and my current position matched this personal interest with my technical skills attained from Information Science and Geography coursework.

What specifically are you doing at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)?

I am creating a database of governance structures existent across the U.S. to be utilized as a tool for finding applicable frameworks for landscape conservation in Eastern North Carolina. Additionally, I am preforming GIS analysis to locate ideal locations for initiating EDF’s Landscape Resilience Program.

What has been the most rewarding experience you’ve had at EDF?

Thus far, I have enjoyed creating resources that have proven useful to my co-workers in meetings with community partners and government officials.

What do you hope to accomplish while working this summer at EDF?

I hope that by the end of the summer I have sufficiently contributed to the Landscape Resilience Program, allowing for the initiative to go into effect earlier than planned in order for flood mitigation and wetland protection to be expedited.

Do you have any advice for anyone interested in pursuing your field of study?

Take every opportunity to meet as many people as you can. Organizations are most effective when they are collaborating with one another on common goals!

Dylan Burns at his internship.

Name: Dylan Burns
Major: Environmental Science B.S., Quantitative Energy Systems Track; Computer Science B.A.
Expected graduation date: May 2021

Why did you decide to pursue solar technology monitoring?

There are a number of reasons why I’m interested in solar technology monitoring. Solar energy is great as it’s the cheapest form of electricity generation and its emissions are practically negligible when compared to conventional fossil fuels. I would also like to work in a field relating to computer science but still have the ability to go out into the field (and not be stuck at a desk all day), which this job allows for.

What specifically are you doing at Solar Operations Solutions, LLC?

The main project that I’ve been working on has been writing the code for two websites, the first one being the updated company website and the second one being a product page for a new piece of solar technology that the company has been developing. I’ve also been involved with the daily monitoring of the fleet of solar facilities to report any instances of underperformance by the inverters.

What has been the most rewarding experience you’ve had at Solar Operations Solutions, LLC?

I’ve enjoyed the days where I’ve been able to travel across the state to a few of the solar facilities to help troubleshoot reporting issues, as this has been a nice break from the office. However, writing code for the two websites has allowed me to learn a great deal about web development, including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript/JQuery, which I had no experience with prior to the internship.

What do you hope to accomplish while working this summer at Solar Operations Solutions, LLC?

I would honestly just like to help the company to the best of my ability, because I strongly believe in their mission and the goal of O2 emc to develop solar in this part of the country.

Do you have any advice for anyone interested in pursuing your field of study?

Technical skills such as experience with GIS or knowledge of programming languages like Python or SQL are incredibly useful when working in this field, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with this software before looking for jobs or internships.