Emily Martinez '21

Meet the Class of 2021

"It's so important to account for cultural differences and not assume one solution works for all cultures."

Emily Martinez '21
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Major: Engineering Sciences modified with Environmental Earth Sciences

Emily Martinez wasn't sure what she would major in when she came to Dartmouth, but she knew it would involve the environment and sustainability. "I didn't know what aspect of those I'd focus on, much less how energy was so embedded in those areas." But the energy connection quickly became clear. 

In the classroom, her engineering courses introduced her to the technical side of energy and strategies for reducing carbon emissions. As an Irving Institute intern during fall 2019, another side of energy emerged for her, as well. "I saw how it can be talked about in relation not just to engineering but also liberal arts and I really liked that." 

The multidisciplinary nature of energy came into stark relief for Emily, however, over the past year, as she co-captained an international team of Dartmouth students and students from National Autonomous University of Mexico, Autonomous University of Baja California, University of Caribe, National Polytechnic Institute, and the Autonomous University of Mexico State.

Over the summer of 2020, Emily had interned at CEMIE-Oceáno where she worked on a research project to study how the temperature gradients in volcanic sands can be used as a source of energy. In the fall, her advisor for that project connected Emily with a group of students he advised in Mexico to build an international team to compete in the National Renewable Energy Lab's Marine Energy Collegiate Competition (MECC). "I didn't know much about ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC). I went in intending to work on the technical design but didn't have any prior knowledge, so it was a learning process!" she says. 

Emily pulled together a team of Dartmouth students (Michelle Wang '21, Santiago Zamora-Castillo '21, and Andres Rosales '20), and the international group got to work. Emily soon found that getting up to speed on the technical side of OTEC was only one challenge. Navigating cultural differences, language barriers, and time differences in a remote working environment were another piece of the project. The entire group, Emily says, was "learning as we were going."

"We didn't know each other at first, so we had to all get on the same page, understand each others' working styles, and work on communication so we could submit a proposal together." She laughs when she remembers the difficulty of trying to find meeting times that would work for 11 people working from different geographic locations and time zones! 

The team managed to surmount the many obstacles and submitted a proposal to build a 60-megawatt ocean energy plant off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico. The review committee was so impressed with the proposal's ambitions, in fact, that the team was given the Moonshot Award. [Learn more about the project and contest here.]

The experience working on ocean energy has influenced Emily's thinking about the future. "It helped me see ocean energy as a field I want to continue in," she says. To that end, she has joined the Pan American Ocean Energy Student Network to stay connected with her MECC teammates and have connections to ocean energy networks. And after she completes her bachelor of engineering degree at Thayer next year, she intends to apply to graduate programs in ocean and atmospheric sciences to study the ways that the ocean and atmosphere interact and are impacted by climate change.

She also finds inspiration and hope in international collaborations like MECC and would like to see more projects like hers. The process of learning each other's norms helped the team create a stronger project, she says. "It's so important to account for cultural differences and not assume one solution works for all cultures. That is the way to create solutions that are more beneficial for all."