Undergrad Advocates for More Study of Environmental Effects of the ‘Internet of Things’

Li participated in UVA Engineering’s Policy Internship Program, which is in its 21st year and combines coursework focused on communications and policy analysis skills with hands-on internships alongside high-level science and technology policymakers in Washington. The goal is to encourage today’s science and engineering leaders-in-training to explore careers in public service and policymaking.

Each summer the program places up to 12 students and, to date, more than 175 students have completed internships with government entities such as congressional offices, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Science Foundation, European diplomatic agencies, the World Bank, and many think tanks and non-profits.

Li, who is interested in social and economic issues arising from the interaction between law and technology, said the opportunity to work with people of non-technical backgrounds within a policy environment was the most valuable part of the Policy Internship Program.

“Learning how to effectively communicate and explain complex technology allowed me to make the most of my unique perspective and skillset as an engineer,” he said.

Li’s experience demonstrates how, as participants in the Policy Internship Program, students can bring their engineering education to bear on complex public policies, said Rider Foley, director of the program and associate professor of science, technology and society in the Department of Engineering and Society .

“While not every intern’s work is published, many contribute in substantive ways to the organizations they work with during the summer,” Foley said. “Andrew’s internship offered him a wonderful opportunity to explore meaningful questions about the internet of things and to contribute to the public dialogue on the topic. Past interns have contributed to drafts of federal policy, memos and other publications.

“Students in this program are training for the future, but many also are influencing the here and now.”

Li said the opportunity was invaluable: “I feel that my experience over the summer prepared me greatly for a future career beyond purely technical work.”

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