Alyssa Kemp has always had a passion for helping others. So, when it came time to choose a path for college, choosing her major felt natural.
“I’ve always looked at life and tried to find ways to improve it through a scientific viewpoint,” the second-year environmental engineering major said. “If you look at a problem like climate change, there are a lot of approaches on how to address it, but you also need people to take a scientific look at how to help those who are being affected by it right now.”
The North Dakota native felt a connection to Drexel when she realized the number of immediate hands-on learning experiences she could be part of, and she got to work her first year. This past summer, she joined the STAR Scholars program, which gives motivated students an early chance to engage in an faculty-mentored undergraduate research, scholarship, or creative experience during their first summer. She joined a project helmed by Franco Montalto, PhD, professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering, to help residents of Philadelphia’s Hunting Park neighborhood escape the summer heat.
“Hunting Park is a heat island, meaning that the lack of trees and other green space contributes to hotter overall temperatures compared to other areas,” Kemp explains. “Many people in the neighborhood don’t have the means to cool their house with air conditioning, which isn’t an ideal environmental solution to begin with. Professor Montalto had started a project last year to install heat mitigation tools like shade structures, planters and sprinklers. This summer, I would go out with civic scientists and measure the temperature variance between different blocks to see what difference the cooling strategies made.”
Kemp recalls one particular day that the impact of her work was especially evident.
“We were in the middle of a heatwave in August, and our temperature sensors were showing that it was over 110 degrees in Hunting Park while the average in the greater Philadelphia area was in the 90s,” she recalls. “We were walking down the street and a man came running out of his house to hug us and thank us for the work we were doing. It was that moment that I really appreciated the impact we could make on the community.”
Though graduation is still several years away, Kemp is already planning ways she can continue to make a difference.
“I want to use my environmental engineering degree in a way that it can benefit the most people,” she says. “I think I want to join the Peace Corps. That way I can directly help others and show my gratitude for having received an education at such a great university.”