Student Stories: Rachel Kosse
Rachel Kosse starts her senior year this fall at the University of Minnesota studying environmental sciences, policy, & management, focused on corporate environmental management. With involvement in the Environmental Student Association, UMN Energy Club, Sustainable Systems Management Club, Human Rights Program Student Advisory Board, Undergraduate Sustainable Leaders, Greeks Go Green Initiative, and the Food Recovery Network, it’s safe to say Rachel is an active student with a passion for the environment. This summer she is working as a Minnesota Technical Assistance Program intern at the Hennepin County Medical Center working on pollution prevention and, most prominently, water conservation. She took some time out of her busy schedule to tell me more about her internship.
What is the MnTAP internship program?
Each summer MnTAP hires 12-15 student interns with strong technical backgrounds and leadership abilities to participate in pollution prevention projects. Companies around Minnesota collaborate with MnTAP to create waste and energy reduction projects for interns to work on. What’s interesting about MnTAP is the variation among projects and industries, making for a diversified pool of projects that can fit each intern’s experience and interests.
How did you come across this internship opportunity?
I came across this internship at a job fair. I spoke with the intern who was hosting a poster and discussing the MnTAP experience and I decided to apply. The potential to create my own project and work self-directed sparked my interest initially because there isn’t that kind of opportunity in every internship position. I’ve worked with water a lot in my past experiences such as when I interned with a water treatment plant and an internship with an energy company in their water division, but I’ve never studied healthcare facilities. I was really interested to learn more about sustainability and water efficiency within the healthcare sector.
What are your tasks or duties as an intern at MnTAP/HCMC?
My responsibilities include finding and documenting water savings throughout the downtown campus. So far this has included documenting water reductions as a result of equipment updates, domestic fixture updates, discontinuing the use of cold water to cool discharge water, and potentially reusing the reverse osmosis reject water. Once the water savings are documented, I calculate the cost savings both from decreasing water use and from decreasing the volume of water sent to the sewer. Then I calculate any energy savings if the water was heated.
What kind of skills are you gaining from your internship?
I’m gaining communication skills and technical process skills. I’ve come to understand the intricacies of maintaining the systems for a large downtown hospital. Learning how a reverse osmosis system works or understanding concentration and permeate rates will give me an upper hand when it comes to future work. I also have gained technical skills performing calculations to figure out how much energy is saved in
heating water which I then can convert to cost savings for the company to use and implement. I’ll have to use these calculations and even more so an understanding of how to be able to convert from one piece of information to the next in future problem solving situations.
How do you see yourself applying this internship to your future career or life as a student working in sustainability?
I see myself understanding ways to decrease resource use and increase process efficiencies more than I had in the past. This will help me in the future because I can learn about a specific practice and from there have more insight to understand the resources used and wastes produced to identify any inefficiencies in order to improve the overall impact. Working onsite at HCMC has helped provide real examples for me to learn from. I have been able to see actual practices and work to find where there are opportunities to save resources and improve process efficiency.
What has been your most exciting achievement as an intern working with HCMC and MnTAP?
Touring all the different facilities and processes at the hospital has allowed me to see many aspects of healthcare. I’ve gotten to see the parts that keep all of that going, the part that no one thinks of but everyone needs. Heating and cooling the building, supplying the water (booster pumps to get it everywhere in the building, temperature control), the interstitial space between floors that holds all of mechanical systems of the building are just a few of the essential systems needed to maintain the hospital.
If you could give advice or words of wisdom to future interns what would you say?
Be thorough and ask all the questions you can think of even if they don’t seem relevant at the time. Take advantage of being surrounded by professionals with experience in a field you may be entering in the next few years. The opportunity is more than just creating your project, it’s also exploring the field and really understanding if you like it or not and making contacts and connections that will help in the future.
If you are interested in learning more about the MnTAP intern projects that are going on this summer, register for the symposium being held on Tuesday, August 23. The symposium features presentations from 14 interns on their waste, energy and water pollution solutions.
Interested in becoming an intern with MnTAP? Apply for next summer’s program here!
Photos courtesy of MnTAP