Yushan Luo

Tell us more about your background. What got you interested in CUSP? 

I studied at the University of Colorado, Boulder for undergrad and I was majoring in environmental studies and minoring in atmospheric and oceanic science. I was passionate about the ocean in connection to climate change, ice melting, salinity in the water as well as the recent polar vortexes seen in Chicago. It was interesting to study about climate change in the Boulder region, which had National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) there.  We went on many field trips to learn about weather science. 

However, while my coursework at Boulder had policy and scientific theories, I leaned toward more quantitative and research analysis in my scholarship. We didn’t get a chance to really engage with big data but at CUSP I was able to learn more about informatics. While I was in undergrad, I was only learning how to read and analyze maps for Sea Surface Temperature anomalies, but not how to make the maps, so the relevant skills I gained at CUSP really helped me in terms of my career. 

During undergrad you had an internship where you were dealing with wastewater treatment programs, which is a big focus of some of the researchers at CUSP. What did you do while interning?

I conducted interviews, collected information and helped my manager to brainstorm new ideas while writing reports on domestic sewage, industrial wastewater, rare earth tailwater, and medical wastewater. The goal of this process was to improve access to clean water for the community. I analyzed new wastewater technologies on the market and how we could use them to save money while getting the most value out of the specific technology. For example, there was a new biotechnology called permeable reactive barrier for water filtering, and I would call different experts to hear their opinions as well as regular people to see if there were any complaints about the water.  

After that you interned at the Institute of Green Investment. What was your role there?

I had taken a class called Environmental Psychology as well as a capstone class where we learned about nature-based social prescribing and consumer behavior, so I used the skills I learned in those classes in this research. We were trying to figure out how to help bring more green technology to the agriculture market as well as small businesses in agriculture. 

One way to do that is, if we can increase the sale of organic products, companies or farms that produce organic foods will have more capital to invest in green technologies. It fosters an environment for impoverished farmers and those in the community to help each other thrive by using sustainable agriculture practice. So as long as they have the capital available, we need to find a way to persuade those early adopters to purchase and use these technologies, but also show the impact it can have on society so that the majority will also be interested. 

When it was time to graduate from Boulder what were your thoughts when applying to a place like CUSP? 

I was interested in sustainable cities and sustainable environments. My goal at CUSP was mainly trying to learn some big data analytics skills, because I think no matter what specific path you follow, it is impossible to go without big data. I think it is the foundation of making our environment better. For example, if we want to make an environment more livable, we definitely want to take a look at crime and poverty rate. 

I really liked CUSP’s focus on new technologies and how they underline the fact that environmental science is not just purely about biodiversity and climate change. Human life and the environment cannot be separated–we must find the balance between the two. And I believe that green infrastructures, technologies, and renewable energy is the way to make it happen.  

While you’ve been at CUSP, what classes or experiences have helped you to pursue your goals in environmental science and green technology? 

In Dr. Wright’s class Innovative City Governance, we learned methodologies for reframing solutions. Earlier I would only think about defining a problem, finding a solution, and trying to write a policy of recommendations, but I didn’t know how important it was to redefine a question or reframe solutions.

Many students come to CUSP to learn coding but I was also interested in methodology and analytics, so it really provided me with an excellent chance to learn about frameworks and their significance.

Plus, I was able to join a capstone project called ”A Tale of Two Cities: Assessing the state of the thermal environment for New York and Athens.” Because I was studying thermal environment and meteorology during my undergrad, and here I learned coding and data visualization, this project allowed me to combine these two fields together. It was also really collaborative. My teammates and I always shared new knowledge with each other which could be applied to individual tasks and that helped us to make a lot more progress. 

And now you have experience as a Strategy Consultant intern. What has that been like? 

I interned at Accenture at the Shanghai office during my spring semester. One of the clients I worked with was a company called Envision. They are focused on car batteries and wind farms, and their goal is to help companies and city government to achieve a net zero future. As a strategy consultant, I helped to provide overviews of the market and analyses of renewable energy technologies and infrastructures for Envision’s potential customers. I would always consider several sides, such as the Chinese government’s needs plus global clients’ perspectives, while working and communicating.

What has stood out to you the most in CUSP and what would you suggest to students who are applying here?  

The first thing I would say to everyone who is applying to CUSP is that there is a big gap between being in undergrad and being in CUSP: you are more thoughtful now; you are caring about communities and societies. But the best thing about CUSP is learning to code, and seeing how you can apply it to the career path you’re really passionate about. I obtained important skill sets such as Python coding for data visualizations and analysis, and GIS for mapping and geospatial analytics, which I am now using in most of my work, and can receive data-based evidence when writing reports.