University of Oxford
11a Mansfield Rd
It was late January when I applied for a Crankstart micro internship- one that involved working on a food sustainability calculator being developed in the ICCS lab group in the Biology Department. Until that point, I had been close to giving up on applying to internships altogether as I had yet been unable to secure a summer one. However, my luck seemed to turn around as I was accepted onto this programme.
Initially, I was a little nervous because I thought I wasn’t going to fit in well in the Biology Department as an undergraduate Geography student. However, upon meeting my supervisors Eleanor and Mike, all my fears simply evaporated. They were very friendly and supportive and I quickly found out that the rest of the lab group was similar. I also realised that the lab group specialises in conservation, which resonated with me as an environmental geographer. I very much enjoyed learning about different projects being undertaken by the group during lunch times, weekly group meetings and cake Thursdays!
The project I was working on involved using my personal Tesco Clubcard data to run tests on a food sustainability calculator. This calculator, built completely in RStudio, breaks down every food purchase into its different ingredients in order to calculate each individual ingredient’s environmental impacts. These impacts are themselves split into many categories, including GHGs, biodiversity, water use and more. It was the first time any individual consumer data was being tested, so I was determined to make it a success.
It was a little challenging at first as I hadn’t used RStudio in quite a while, but both my supervisors were incredibly understanding and eager to help. Solving coding errors could be frustrating but the satisfaction of being able to do so was even more rewarding. In addition, I was able to learn new bits of coding such as regular expressions, which sparked a new interest in coding for me as I was able to see the wonderful and wacky things it can do.
Having finished my initial goal of running my data through the calculator successfully, I was then free to do other interesting things, such as exploring alternative ways to present my food sustainability results. Towards the end of the internship, I was invited by E.J. to make a presentation about my work to show the rest of the ICCS lab group in a meeting. I agreed, and was thus able to present my work to the group- and some visitors!- during the next term.
Overall, the experience was valuable, insightful, and most importantly, fun! It certainly helped solidify my desire to work in a job involving environmental sustainability or something similar. Many thanks to Eleanor, Mike and the rest of ICCS for providing the best working environment one can hope for, and Crankstart for offering the opportunity!