Intern: Forrest Pasturel
Major: Environmental Policy Analysis and Planning
Supervisor: Medha Surampudy, Senior Research Associate
Interviewer: Ms. Surampudy, can you tell us about the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA)?
Ms. Surampudy: We’re an educational nonprofit focused on facilitating the electric power industry’s transition to clean energy through education, research, and collaboration.
Interviewer: What is your position here, and what roles and responsibilities at SEPA?
Ms. Surampudy: I’m the Senior Research Associate. We’re a small research team, so we all do everything. I write papers, lead working groups, help with member requests and projects, present, and manage the intern program.
Interviewer: Forrest, what is your internship title and what are some of your roles and responsibilities?
Forrest: I’ve been assigned various roles, everything from administrative tasks to contributing to utility snapshots and reports. Right now, I’m doing my overarching research project: the decarbonization of our energy grid and how utilities can benefit from it. I’ve been working on that for the past month now and plan to give a final presentation.
Interviewer: What aspects of your internship have been the most challenging and rewarding?
Forrest: The most challenging thing was trying to understand the information. I didn’t have as much of a background in the energy grid and it was pretty daunting, but as I read more reports from SEPA and other organizations, it became more understandable. The most rewarding aspect has been understanding and becoming passionate about these topics. What SEPA has done is provided me an opportunity to grow and expand my interests.
Interviewer: Ms. Surampudy, what skills do you look for in prospective interns?
Ms. Surampudy: We look for people who have an interest in the content or learning the content as well as people who are hardworking and curious. The nature of our work requires us to be very flexible. [We want] good research, writing and Excel skills, as well as personable people because we engage with members.
Interviewer: Forrest, what is one project you have worked on in your internship that you are particularly proud of?
Forrest: I’m very passionate about the decarbonization research project. I’ve learned a lot about the technical aspects, the methods and business models utilities must develop, and how regulators and policymakers must be the ones to be motivated to create a greener and cleaner energy grid. We must also look to utility companies and how they can pave the future for our utility grid.
Interviewer: What advice do you have for students seeking out similar internships?
Forrest: Be passionate about whatever environmental subject you’re hoping to pursue. Be open to learning new material and ideas. Make sure you’re personable, you’re people-oriented, and you put effort into what you do. Stay focused and have fun with it.