When she was in 7th grade, Heidi Lee and five other members of the Oyster Garden Club dreamed of filling hundreds of Chesapeake Bay residents. On the day Oyster left for the Gulf, the event attracted local officials, including television reporters and the governor. The focus shifted to young Lee’s eyes in ways that could seem to have little effect on the real world.
“I’ve seen for myself how we can make a difference at the grassroots level and how that can hurt where we are,” she said.
Lee, who grew up in Howard County, Maryland, was surrounded by nature. Remembering her parents’ home in Shandong, China, her family made several trips to Chesapeake Bay. Lee worked to bridge the cultural divide between Chinese parents and their American children and attended Chinese school every Sunday for 12 years. These experiences inspired a community-centered approach, and Lee brought her to MIT, where she is currently studying material science and engineering.
In her first year, Lee attended the first-degree research opportunities program at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (UROP) Microbiology Research Project. She studied the microbes in the aquatic environment, analyzing how water hygiene affects the immune system and the behavior of marine bacteria.
Her experience has led her to consider ways in which environmental policy can influence sustainable efforts. She began to focus on the problem, asking herself questions such as, “How can you take advantage of this unique economic principle? What was the energy policy like in the past and how can we adapt it to our current energy system?”
After a few years at the Rosswell Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research, Lee participated in exploring policy and energy intersections. The project uses case studies targeting vulnerable communities in vulnerable areas to provide strategies for sustainability. Lee focused on Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and evaluated the efficiency of the energy transfer from natural gas and fossil fuels to carbon emissions, which meant redistributing carbon dioxide produced by the coal industry. After traveling to Pittsburgh and interviewing local stakeholders, Lee saw local community leaders create physical spaces for citizens to share their thoughts and ideas on the transition.
“I have seen community leaders create a safe haven for people from local cities to share their ideas for entrepreneurship. I have seen how important the community is and how to make a difference at the grassroots level,” she said.
A.D. In the summer of 2021, Lee trained with energy consulting firm Wood McKenzie, where she explored technologies that help transform energy from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Her job was to streamline local resources by making the technology more efficient and cost-effective. The project enabled Lee to engage with industry-based efforts to design and analyze technological advances for a variety of carbon dioxide conditions. She hopes to continue to look at local, community and foreign, industry-based inputs on how economic policy affects stakeholders.
On campus, Lee is the current president of the Sustainable Energy Alliance (SEA), whose mission is to make students more aware of climate change and its impact on the environment. In her second summer, she led Sustained Hakato to more than 200 high school students, designing “Climate Migrant Refugees” and “Fighting Environmental Injustice” Challenges to motivate students to think about humanitarian efforts to protect their communities.
“The overall purpose of this is to enable students to think about their own solutions. Encouraging students is important to show that they can make a difference and to inspire hope in themselves and those around them,” she said.
Lee hosted the Open SEacrets, which is designed to engage MIT students in topics related to energy sustainability and give them a chance to share their perspectives on the issue. She sees the podcast as a platform to raise awareness about energy, climate change and environmental policy and to engage with the community.
When she is not in the classroom or in the laboratory, she relaxes playing volleyball. She joined the volleyball club at MIT in her first year, and although she has been playing since she was 12, the sport not only relieves stress but also allows her to have conversations with both undergraduate and graduate students. , And experiences into conversations. The sport taught Lee about teamwork, faith and the importance of community in a way that others had never experienced before.
Looking to the future, Lee is currently working on a UROP project that will shape the climate change curriculum from grades K-12 and show how climate change and energy are important to people’s daily lives. Considering the transfer of energy as a multidisciplinary problem, she wants to teach students to address a few of the problems of climate change and sustainability in mathematics, science, history and psychology.
But most of all, Lee wants to encourage younger generations to develop solutions on environmental issues. She hopes to give the local community a voice in the implementation of the policy, which is the ultimate goal for all.
“Having a truly prosperous community allows you to push yourself and be the best you can be. I want to take this idea and create space for people and create and spread this sense of community,” she said.