After graduating with an accredited Bachelor of Architecture and working for two years in the industry, I knew that I wanted to pursue an advanced degree in sustainability. I earned a Master of Science in Sustainable Engineering: Renewable Energy Systems and the Environment (Dist.) from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, UK, which is home of the modeling program, ESP-r. Whole building energy modeling piqued my interest, as it drew from knowledge areas in both of my degrees. An internship at Fraunhofer CSE was the perfect opportunity to develop modeling skills in other software, such as EnergyPlus and WUFI, as well as participate in experiments within the Building Enclosures team.
I worked on several projects during my 11 months in Cambridge. One of the larger projects included the thermal performance of Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC), which because of its low density is often misrepresented in building codes. The team measured AAC’s performance in the lab and assessed its impact on energy consumption through numerical analysis and whole building energy modeling. Another project focused on developing and calibrating a reliable, low-cost moisture sensing technique which was deployed in a test building retrofitted with an advanced insulation system. I found the exposure to a variety of projects and level of autonomy greatly rewarding. The team included great minds and leaders in the field, who were approachable, open to new ideas and provided support if needed. The interns were equally inspiring. Comprised of individuals from six continents and a variety of educational concentrations, my colleagues were exuberant, knowledgeable and collaborative. Outside of work, we were good friends as well.
Another advantage of a Fraunhofer internship is the connection to local universities and international professionals. There is a knowledge exchange that is invigorating. Through networking functions, I met several people from the ISE, a Fraunhofer branch in Freiberg, Germany, as well as other building science and engineering professionals at events throughout Boston. Furthermore, many of the interns and permanent staff attended lectures and conferences regarding cutting-edge technology and practices. Special events sponsored by Fraunhofer, such as the Das Haus exhibition—a travelling show-house demonstrating Passive House building standards—were also great opportunities.
While at Fraunhofer CSE, several interns– including myself– were actively recruited by companies despite the sluggishness of the economy in recent history. Because of my diverse background augmented by my internship, I was offered a job as a Building Envelope Specialist in an engineering firm in New York. I had a truly rewarding experience at Fraunhofer, which launched me ahead of the competition in the job market.