Energy Internship Program fuels Duke students’ summer learning
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Dozens of undergraduate and graduate students from across Duke University are taking deep dives into the energy industry this summer. Many connected with their internship opportunities thanks to the interdisciplinary Energy Internship Program, and 21 received supplementary funding through the program.

Created by the Duke University Energy Initiative in 2019, the program identified more internship listings than ever for summer 2021, including opportunities at start-ups, utilities, renewable energy developers, large firms, non-governmental organizations, and government agencies.

As in the past, students could apply to the Energy Internship Program for financial assistance if offered unpaid or low-paying positions. Thanks to a partnership with the Energy Access Project, some funding was reserved for internships related to energy access or energy transitions in low- and middle-income countries.

Will Slap with his dog Rooney.
Will Slap (MEM/MBA’22) is completing his finance internship with BlocPower remotely, aided by capable office assistant Rooney.

One of the students funded by this year’s program is Will Slap, who is pursuing dual master’s degrees in business administration and environmental management at the Fuqua School of Business and Nicholas School of the Environment. Will is a finance intern at BlocPower, a climate technology startup that retrofits buildings in disadvantaged communities with clean energy projects, helping lower utility bills and create jobs. Founded by Duke University alumnus Donnel Baird (’03), BlocPower has garnered national attention with its creative approach to advancing sustainable energy, energy efficiency, and economic development in American cities.

“I'm able to take the modeling and strategy tools I've learned at Duke and put them to work in service of decarbonizing buildings and expanding access to those who traditionally have been marginalized and left out of the green economy,” Slap reflected. “I'm so grateful to the Energy Initiative, the Fuqua School of Business’s Summer Internship Fund, and the BlocPower team for this opportunity.”

Tina Machado working remotely next to two kittens.
Tina Machado (E’23) appreciates her remote project management internship with Sustaining Way even though some of her coworkers are kind of "catty."

Tina Machado, a rising junior at the Pratt School of Engineering, received funding for her project management internship with Sustaining Way, a nonprofit that uses education, collaboration and advocacy to create sustainable, caring and equitable communities. “I am getting real-life experience working with sustainability and energy efficiency that I would not otherwise have,” reported Machado. “I am making great connections with my coworkers and enjoying every minute of the internship.”

“We want to be able to connect as many Duke students as possible to real-world experiences with the energy industry,” explained Dr. Brian Murray, interim director of the recently merged Energy Initiative and Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. “Thanks to a network of Duke alumni and friends, we’ve been able to match more students to new opportunities. I’m deeply grateful for their generosity and look forward to continuing to grow the Energy Internship Program.”

The Energy Internship Program provided supplementary funding to 21 undergraduate and graduate students in the summer of 2021:

  • Scott Burstein, a rising senior majoring in earth and climate sciences at Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, is a summer intern at Standard Normal.
  • Jeff Fromuth, who is pursuing a master's degree in environmental management at the Nicholas School of the Environment, is a summer intern at The North Carolina Clean Energy Fund.
  • Abhinav Jain, a rising junior majoring in economics at Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, is a summer intern at Terrafuse, Inc.
  • Rajat Khandelwal, who is pursuing a master’s degree in environmental management at the Nicholas School of the Environment, is a summer intern at the Indo-German Energy Forum. **
  • Pierce King, who is pursuing an MBA degree at the Fuqua School of Business, is interning at Clean Energy Ventures.
  • Colin Lee, a rising senior studying energy mechanics and geopolitics in the Middle East at Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, is a summer intern at Aspire Power Solutions. **
  • Harry Lord, who is pursuing a master’s degree in management studies at the Fuqua School of Business, is interning at EQ Research.
  • Christina Machado, a rising junior majoring in electrical and computer engineering at the Pratt School of Engineering, is a summer intern at Sustaining Way.
  • Kate Neal, a rising junior majoring in environmental sciences at Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, is a summer intern at SmartBlock Communities.
  • Jonathan Peralta, who is pursuing a master’s degree in environmental management at the Nicholas School of the Environment and an MBA from UNC's Kenan-Flagler School of Business, is a summer intern at Aspire Power Solutions. **
  • Hope Pratt, a rising sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering at the Pratt School of Engineering, is a summer intern at Aspire Power Solutions. **
  • Jose Pumarejo, who is pursuing an MBA at the Fuqua School of Business and a master’s degree in public policy from the Sanford School of Public Policy, is interning with the Doing Business Project at The World Bank. **
  • Casey Schoff, a rising sophomore student majoring in economics and public policy at Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, is a summer intern at Ecolytics.
  • Swetha Sekhar, a rising sophomore majoring  in mechanical engineering at the Pratt School of Engineering and computer science at Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, is a summer intern at Ecolytics.
  • Sagar Shah, a rising senior studying public policy at Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, is a summer intern with the U.S. Department of Energy’s State Energy Program.
  • Will Slap, who is pursuing a master’s degree in environmental management from the Nicholas School of the Environment and an MBA from the Fuqua School of Business, is a summer intern at BlocPower.
  • Ava Weinreb, a rising senior majoring in environmental sciences and policy at Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, is a summer intern at Advanced Energy Economy.
  • Michael Wood, a rising junior majoring in mechanical engineering at the Pratt School of Engineering, is a summer intern at Varea Energy.
  • Katherine Wu, who is pursuing a master’s degree in engineering management at the Pratt School of Engineering, is a summer intern at Lyft.
  • Winston Yau, a rising senior majoring in public policy and physics at Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, is a summer intern at Prime Impact Fund.
  • Erin Yu, a rising sophomore majoring in environmental sciences and policy at Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, is a summer intern at SmartBlock Communities.

** denotes the student received funding from the Energy Access Project at Duke

Questions about the Energy Internship Program?
Contact Stacy Peterson:

Want to make a gift to support the Energy Initiative’s educational programming?
You can give online or contact Mary Catherine Hall, Duke Development.

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Watch: Energy in Emerging Markets Career Talks

Curious about careers related to energy access and energy transitions in low- and middle-income countries?  Check out this career talks session, which focuses on opportunities in governmental agencies and development banks.

This is the second of two virtual career talks organized by the Energy Access Project at Duke University and the Duke University Energy Initiative in February 2021. Duke students from diverse undergraduate and graduate degree programs learned from professionals about their organizations, roles, energy career journeys, and advice. The webinar was moderated by Victoria Plutshack, Policy Associate at the Energy Access Project.  

Headshot of Sam Kwon

Sam Kwon: Practice Lead Senior Director, Energy, Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) 
Sam Kwon explains the goal and composition of the MCC, a U.S. government agency with a public-private board, and describes the skill sets of professionals on the MCC energy team. To illustrate the day-to-day work of his team, he offers examples of current issues with projects in Nepal and Ghana. Kwon, a graduate of Georgetown Law, also describes his professional journey in development finance.

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Dia Martin: Managing Director, U.S. International Development Finance Corp. (IDF) 
Dia Martin offers background on IDF, a U.S. government agency and a development finance institution that operates in 100+ countries. She describes her work as a managing director on the social enterprise finance team in IDF’s Office of Development Credit, where she manages a diverse impact investing portfolio that includes energy projects. Martin outlines a typical workday and shares a success story: a $5M loan that helped propel a small company called GreenLight Planet to secure nearly $100M in financing.  

Natacha Marzolf

Natacha Marzolf: Principal Development Bank-Energy, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)
Natacha Marzolf explains the structure and scope of IDB, as well as the makeup of the energy division, where she works. She offers an overview of IDB’s energy portfolio; explains the four-pillar framework that guides IDB’s work (access, sustainability, security, and governance); emphasizes the importance of knowledge-sharing; and describes initiatives related to regional integration, gender diversity in the energy sector, and innovation. A native of France and a graduate of Harvard Law, Marzolf has worked for IDB for about 25 years, and she describes her trajectory within the institution.

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Alisha Pinto (MPP'16): Energy Specialist, World Bank
Alisha Pinto outlines her career journey from Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy, where she graduated with a master’s degree in public policy, to her current role as an energy specialist within the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) at the World Bank.  ESMAP is one of the custodians for U.N. Sustainable Development Goal Seven (“access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy”). Pinto explains how ESMAP fits into the World Bank framework. She describes her role in advancing the newly formed Clean Cooking Fund, a $500M fund meant to catalyze and accelerate access toward clean cooking.

Get email updates on energy news and events at Duke.

Learn more about the Energy Access Project at Duke.


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Register for Energy Week at Duke (Nov. 9-12)
Energy Week Schedule
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Curious about experts’ takes on resilience & upheaval in the energy industry? Care about climate issues? Looking to expand your network? Check out the Duke University Energy Conference and other free virtual events during the fifth annual Energy Week at Duke (Nov. 9-12, 2020). 


Climate Whistleblowers: A Live Podcast Event
 (Mon., Nov. 9, 6-7 p.m. ET) — Open to all. Join the hosts of the award-winning Ways & Means podcast (produced by Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy) for a live storytelling event. Featured experts include environmental justice activist Hilton Kelley, Tim Profeta (Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions), Deondra Rose (Polis: Duke’s Center for Politics), and Karen Torrent (National Whistleblower Center).

SPARK Career event (Tues., Nov. 10, 5-7 p.m.) — Open only to Duke undergraduate and graduate students. Come explore career opportunities and network with 20+ employers from across the energy sector.

Duke University Energy Conference (Wed., Nov. 11, 9:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. ET) — Open to all. How can individuals and companies in the energy sector demonstrate resilience in the face of disruption? Come get industry experts’ insights. Keynotes include Amy Harder (Axios) on the post-election energy policy outlook, Wes Edens (New Fortress Energy, Fortress Investment Group) on future disruptions in investment and infrastructure, and Carmichael Roberts (Material Impact, Breakthrough Energy) on entrepreneurship in uncertain times. Additional panel discussions and quick talks will tackle energy and cleantech investment trends, energy’s role in sustainable development, and what’s next for energy markets. 

Power Hour (Wed., Nov. 11, 7-8 p.m. ET) — Open only to Duke alumni, students, employees, and invited special guests. The Duke University Energy Initiative is hosting this virtual networking event for the Duke community and special guests, including Conference speakers, Energy Week corporate sponsors, and the top five finalist teams in the Energy in Emerging Markets Case Competition

Energy Innovation Showcase (Thurs., Nov. 12, 5-7 p.m. ET) Open to all. Explore cutting-edge energy technology and business solutions. Featuring remarks from innovators at GRID Alternatives and Greentown Labs, as well as the opportunity to network with entrepreneurs, investors, and researchers from other inventive companies and organizations. 

ABOUT ENERGY WEEK AT DUKE: This annual event series is organized by several dozen undergraduate and graduate students from many Duke degree programs, with support from the Duke University Energy Initiative, EDGE Center at the Fuqua School of Business, and corporate sponsors.   


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Twenty-four Duke students funded as energy sector interns
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In late February 2020, many of the student emails in Stacy Peterson’s inbox were studded with exclamation points. “I kept hearing from Duke students who were choosing among multiple energy internship offers,” recalled Peterson, assistant director for student and alumni engagement at the Duke University Energy Initiative.  

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic. A substantial number of internships evaporated, with companies closing searches or retracting offers. Eager for hands-on experience in the energy sector, many undergraduate and graduate students at Duke felt devastated. 

The Energy Initiative team sprang into action.

Supporting students’ self-advocacy

First, the team developed guidance for students with internship offers in hand. “Many of our industry contacts had never considered remote internships before,” said Peterson. “So we thought, ‘What if we prepare Duke students to pitch doing things differently?’” 

The team developed tips, a list of Duke resources, and a sample email that students could use to propose that their face-to-face internships be conducted remotely. (Much of the document was applicable across industries, so several other Duke entities distributed it to non-energy students as well.) 

While students often had to wait for answers as companies struggled with more immediate challenges, some employers eventually green-lighted the remote positions they proposed.

Making the most of the Energy Initiative Internship Program

Meanwhile, the team also looked for ways to leverage its existing internship program. Now in its second year, the program connects Duke students from all degree programs with summer opportunities across the energy sector and provides stipend assistance. 

When companies began to cancel summer listings, the Energy Initiative launched an email and social media campaign calling on alumni and industry contacts to create new remote opportunities for Duke students. The Duke network responded immediately with new listings for the program, helping many students to salvage their summers. (The program is now closed to new listings for summer 2020.)  

Financial pressures meant some companies could not afford stipends for the new remote internship positions. Thanks to alumni gifts before and during the pandemic, the Energy Initiative was able to support twenty students’ remote internships. The Energy Access Project at Duke assisted in supporting one of these and fully funded another four. Most of the funded positions are with startups and small companies, often with Duke alumni serving as mentors.

picture of energy interns at Joules Accelerator.
Sofia Hornstein (E'22) (bottom left) and Sam Pollan (MEM/MBA’21) (bottom right) are remote summer interns at Joules Accelerator. They’re pictured here with executive director Bob Irvin (MEM'79) (top right) and director of business Ryan Rutledge (top left).

Engineering student Sofia Hornstein (E’22) says she’s learning a lot from being an intern at Joules Accelerator during the pandemic: “I have a front-row seat to how entrepreneurs from Joules’s current cohort of eight start-ups and their advisors are figuring out how to deal with unexpected challenges.” One of Hornstein’s favorite projects so far is helping to organize Tech Lemonade 2.0 (July 8), a virtual event focused on the role of innovation in corporate sustainability.

Chemistry major Anna Smirnova (T’22) is interning at Advanced Energy Economy, where alumna Hannah Polikov (T '05/JD '08) was instrumental in creating new remote positions. “I was disappointed when my other plans fell through, but this internship has been amazing,” commented Smirnova. “Getting to use my technical background in this context has given me confidence in the flexibility of the analytical skills I'm learning at Duke. I’m really grateful to the Energy Initiative and Advanced Energy Economy for helping make sure I have a productive summer.” 

“The Duke community has been so solutions-focused throughout this pandemic,” said Energy Initiative director Dr. Brian Murray. “This is just one example of how the Duke network of alumni and friends has  mobilized to advance student learning and professional development opportunities during this time.”

Students financially supported by the program in summer 2020 include: 

Quinn Beckham (T’22) - Carolina Solar Energy
Scott Burstein (T’22) - Nth Cycle
Elena Cavallero (T’21) - Prime Impact
Vanessa Chen (T’23) - Sunforge
Samantha Dilley (T’23) - Shine
Julia Dworetzky (E’21) - Vie Technologies
Will Foster (MEM/MBA‘22) - Blueprint
Aneesh Gupta (E'22, T’22) - ANB Systems
Cameron Hawkins (MEM/MBA‘22) - New Balance
Sofia Hornstein (E’22) - Joules Accelerator
Ivy Jiang (T’21) - Sunforge
Chris Lazinski (MEM/MBA‘21) - North Carolina Utilities Commission
Shawn Li (MEM’21) - Schneider Electric
Marie McNamara (MEM'21) - Energicity
Merle Nye (T'21) - OnePower
Shannon Parker (MEM/MBA‘21) - Sustainability Defined
Sam Pollan (MEM/MBA‘21) - Joules Accelerator
Rajat Pungaliya (MEM’21) - SmartBlock Communities
Eric Reynolds (MBA'21) - Aspire Power Solutions
William Reynolds (T’23) - Aera VC
Isaac Rosenthal (MEM'21) - Power for All
Anna Smirnova (T’22) - Advanced Energy Economy
Nicolas Villar-Poblete (MEM’22) - Advanced Energy Economy
Michael Wood (E’23) - Streamline Innovations

Questions about the Energy Initiative Internship Program? Contact Stacy Peterson,

Want to make a gift to support the Energy Initiative’s educational programming? You can give online or contact Mary Catherine Hall, Duke Development.

Is your company interested in tapping into the Duke student talent pool in 2021? We’ll begin accepting listings in late 2020. Join our email list for updates.

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Watch: Women in Energy 2020
Women in Energy 2020

Across the energy sector, women make up less than 30% of the workforce, but that is changing as more young women enter the sector and as the industry makes a concentrated effort to increase gender diversity.

At Duke University’s annual Women In Energy panel discussion (held virtually this year), three Duke alumnae spoke candidly about their career journeys to date and discussed challenges faced by women in the sector (including unconscious bias, sexist remarks, systemic obstacles, imposter syndrome, and more). Panelists also offered advice for aspiring energy professionals of all genders.

All 2020 panelists were recent Duke alumnae: 

  • Arsheen Allam (MBA’17), founder and CEO of GOLeafe;
  • Olivia Eskew (MEM’18), policy and strategy analyst at Cypress Creek Renewables; and
  • Lauren Shum (E’17), vice president of engineering at Sunforge.

The event was moderated by Katie Kross, managing director of the Center for Energy, Development, & the Global Environment (EDGE Center) at the Fuqua School of Business (, which organized the event in partnership with the Duke University Energy Initiative.

You can learn about more events like this one by signing up for email updates from the EDGE Center and the Energy Initiative.

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