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Paricha Duangtaweesub

Paricha Duangtaweesub, MS '15

Complex, messy – and rewarding

Paricha Duangtaweesub holding treats to eat

"What do you want to do after school?"

I rapidly became familiar with this question during my graduate studies, and soon I found myself responding with one version or another of the same response: "I want to apply what I learned to make an impact in renewable energy."

I was a naïve student of chemical engineering then, cherry-picking engineering classes in renewable energy, crossing over to the GSB and d.school to round out my education. I thought social impact work would be straightforward and well defined, with the benefits as measurable as my grades or the applause after presentations. Did I mention I was naïve?

With much excitement, I accepted a summer Schneider Fellowship at the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco right after graduation where I contributed to advocacy work in energy efficiency policy in California and India. Between studying technical potential of bio gas, writing comments to an ordinance proposed by the City of Palo Alto, and preparing a case study of building codes for Hyderabad, the learning experience was both challenging and rewarding.

I found that systems of people can be far more complex than any mathematical models taught in class. It is imperative that we understand the different needs of the stakeholders within the system that we promised to help – city residents, politicians, business owners, and government agencies – as well as the environment. As an engineer, I learned an important lesson: that technical knowledge is only part of the answer.

Paricha Duangtaweesub, MS ’15 (Chemical Engineering), was a 2015 Schneider Fellow. Schneider Fellows work at leading U.S. nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to tackle today's sustainable energy challenges.
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