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Internship Spotlight: Charlotte Dyvik Henke, A.B. ’21 (Ocean Data Platform Foundation)
Name: Charlotte Dyvik Henke
Concentration: Environmental science and engineering
Graduation Year: 2021
Hometown: Oslo, Norway
Internship focus/topic: Building a global ocean data platform for sustainability
Internship location: Ocean Data Platform Foundation in Oslo, Norway
Describe your internship.
This summer, I worked at the Ocean Data Platform Foundation in Oslo, Norway. The Ocean Data Platform (ODP) is a unique, global initiative aimed at creating a global data sharing platform for all data on the world’s oceans. ODP was started by the REV Ocean Foundation, which is also building the world’s largest Research Expedition Vessel, named REV Ocean, as well as leading the Plastic REVolution initiative, aimed at cleaning up plastic pollution in countries around the world.
The specific aim of ODP is to increase the accessibility and availability of data on the ocean to facilitate knowledge-based sustainable solutions. Once up and running, the ODP will be able to combine open datasets and host open AI and machine learning applications in an unprecedented way to help businesses, policy makers, and researchers alike to act more sustainably in the ocean.
The Foundation is currently in its start-up phase, so my tasks included working with the data technology company Cognite, one of our technical partners, to apply the technical capabilities of their existing technology to our vision for the ocean. I also project-managed the development of a use case to demonstrate the vast potential and capabilities of the platform, and conducted a market field study to evaluate current best practices and come up with recommendations for what features the Ocean Data Platform should include.
What is one of the most valuable lessons you learned from this internship, and why?
I learned to not be afraid and to constantly take on new challenges, as this is where you can learn the most. I stepped outside of my comfort zone every day that I worked at ODP, starting from being the note-taker at my first partner meeting, to eventually presenting and leading multiple meetings with partners and team members, and presenting my findings to the CEO and other team members. I have also learned about what it takes to transform ideas into actual products, how to take initiative and work independently, and how to best collaborate with people from the different fields of data science, data engineering, computer science, climate science and business development.
What is one of the biggest challenges you faced during this internship, and why? How did you overcome it?
The team I worked with was highly dynamic; I was constantly on my toes with meetings to attend, tasks to complete, and deadlines to fulfill. While I loved the fast pace, I initially found it challenging to stay on top of all of my various tasks, but eventually I was able to fall back on my vast experience handling multiple problem-set and paper deadlines at Harvard to ensure I kept up with the pace. In many ways, it was exactly this fast pace and general atmosphere of excitement that made the experience so fulfilling for me.
What skills from your courses at SEAS helped you the most during this internship, and why?
Several of my prior classes have involved combining people’s various backgrounds and skill-sets to come up with innovative, interdisciplinary solutions to difficult problems. I have found this transferable to this internship, as we were brainstorming how we can leverage our technology and backgrounds to help solve the complex issues that affect the ocean. It was inspiring to me to see how, when you gather a group of competent and motivated people together, anything is possible.
Why has this internship been a good experience for you?
It has been so invigorating to gain real-world experience at a non-profit foundation that works on the issues that I care so much about. This experience allows me to see the courses I am taking in the bigger picture—I am able to see what I am working towards, which reinforces the importance of my studies. Indeed, REV Ocean’s motto, “from understanding to solutions,” seems to me to be an exact representation of what we learn in environmental science and engineering. Many of my classes have been about building our knowledge and understanding of key environmental problems to then engineer solutions to those problems. I am now returning to campus with renewed determination to learn and contribute all I can to help solve the environmental issues I care about.
How do you think this experience could inform or benefit your future career path?
This experience has provided me with valuable focus and has opened my eyes to the vast possibilities out there, especially in the ocean, and I am inspired to continue in this field. Through this experience, I realised it is important to me to feel that I am actually making a difference for the climate crisis in my work. Given that we have so little time to reverse the negative impacts of climate change, I am keen to ensure I am directing my time and effort to areas where I can make the most impact.
How did you find out about this internship?
I knew I wanted to apply my environmental engineering background to sustainable development and was researching opportunities in this field. I contacted the CEO of REV Ocean, Nina Jensen, who I was lucky to work with two years ago while she was the secretary general of the World Wildlife Fund, to ask for her advice. I have always been inspired by her long-standing work as a climate activist, and was interested in getting involved with her projects, so it was amazing to be able to join her in her new project at REV Ocean.