Emma Doherty '21

Meet the Class of 2021

"Knowing that so many people out there are excited and interested and really working on these issues brings me hope." 

Emma Doherty '21
Hometown: Seattle, WA
Major: Engineering Sciences

Emma Doherty came to Dartmouth inspired to help make the world a more sustainable place as an engineer. As she explored her options, first through materials engineering, then systems design and sustainable building, energy came into sharp focus for her. "I was introduced to sustainable design within buildings and I realized how important energy is. It's the top priority in terms of dealing with climate change." 

A Cook Engineering and Design Fellow at the Thayer School of Engineering, Emma is fascinated not just by the technical aspects of energy, but also how it is informed by so many disciplines. In fact, interdisciplinarity is what drew her to Dartmouth in the first place. "The people and the range of interests at Dartmouth are really exciting. I knew I wanted to be an engineer, but I was also interested in the liberal arts. I didn't want to go to a tech school." The mix of disciplines have enabled her to meet a lot of people outside of STEM and study abroad twice — in Buenos Aires and Copenhagen, which she says wouldn't have happened if she had gone to a purely "tech" school. 

Her time at Dartmouth has given her a chance to engage in hands-on learning in the energy space, as well. In summer 2020, Emma leveraged an Irving Institute mini-grant to work on developing prefabricated facade panels for deep energy retrofits in the northeastern U.S. The project's goal was to develop a panel facade system that improved the thermal performance and air-tightness of existing mid-rise and high-rise buildings. Her current design is a honeycomb-inspired R-30 panel using low embodied carbon materials and includes pre-installed triple-pane windows. She's wrapping up an impact analysis this summer.

Additionally, Emma's capstone engineering project involved the design and construction of a tiny lab. (You can view a presentation about the project here and see the students discuss the energy-specific elements of the project here. And check out the Tiny Lab website here.) The two-term class project was directed by Thayer Professor Vicki May, with project consulting from Irving Institute Research Director Stephen Doig. Emma and her team of five other student engineers sought to design and build a tiny house that would expand lab space for a team of ecological researchers working in the Second College Grant in northern New Hampshire. Because the ecologists only use the lab for part of the year, the team also designed with the intention of providing a space for student hands-on learning. When it's not in the Grant, the lab will live at the Dartmouth Organic Farm. Design thinking, iterative design, sustainability, and energy efficiency were integral to the approach that Emma and her team used to successfully develop the lab. 

Looking ahead, Emma plans to pursue a career in the renewable energy space and is generally optimistic about the future. "I think there are a lot of exciting things going on. The more I learn, yes, the more problems I find, but also the more I learn about people actively trying to make a difference, coming up with creative solutions, incorporating climate justice into their work in energy… knowing that so many people out there are excited and interested and really working on these issues brings me hope."