Located in the bustling heart of Somerville lies Greentown Labs. Flanked by townhomes, restaurants, and a gentle flurry of cyclists and vehicles commuting down the tree-lined Somerville Avenue, you would be forgiven for passing its unassuming window-and-brick façade without a second thought. Step inside, however, and you are greeted with a commodious atrium featuring a stage and plenty of space for conversations (as well as platters of food during networking events). Greentown Labs is a startup incubator specifically geared towards startups in the climate-tech space. As the largest incubator of its kind in North America, a huge breadth of startups have passed through its doors with technology addressing everything from energy storage of renewable energy sources to the breeding cycle of crops.
Not only does this network of companies represent an immense potential to shape the environmental outlook of our future, but it also provides a compelling source of job opportunities. Here are the perspectives of three of the five Olin students spending their summer internships at current or graduated member companies of Greentown Labs:
Adi Ramachandran ‘23| Electrical Engineering Intern, Acoustic Wells
Acoustic Wells is bringing physics expertise, internet-of-things capabilities, and artificial intelligence/machine learning to the oil and gas industry to enable environmentally cleaner operations. With its genesis in research on measuring acoustic vibrations of pipes to determine characteristics of fluids flowing through that pipe, Adi’s role at Acoustic Wells is to design, test, and evaluate the PCBs that will enable sensors to transmit data for the specialized analysis. If it sounds like Adi’s work is directly connected to the company’s research and development process, that is because it is: “Being at Greentown, you can take it for granted… to have that much impact as an intern,” Adi commented. “As a first-year intern I am designing some equipment that has to go on the field in a pilot test in the next three days...” While admitting some pressure associated with this responsibility, Adi remarked, “It is a really cool opportunity,” and emphasized his gratitude for the new skills his internship affords him.
Adi also appreciates the team dynamic of the company, with access to employees of all levels - an experience unique to working at a small startup. Although the state of COVID-19 limits the opportunities Adi would have otherwise had at Greentown to expand his network beyond Acoustic Wells, he is still able to find value in being in the Greentown cohort: “It is genuinely a really neat place with… a lot of great people working on a great cause.”
Jonas Kazlauskas ’23 | Software Engineering Intern, Singularity Energy
Greenwash is a term that refers to disinformation conveyed to create a false image of environmental responsibility; this is the problem that Jonas is tackling in his internship. Singularity Energy is a startup focusing on providing the data infrastructure that supplies up-to-date, actionable, and transparent data pertaining to climate change. This data takes multiple forms as both an API and white-label projects.
Jonas’ internship project is to develop a web app that communicates companies’ environmental impacts and ethical practices. Setting the context for his work, Jonas described, “There are no regulations saying they [companies] have to put certain information out. It seems like companies have too much control over peoples’ perceptions on them.” Referring to Greenwashing, Jonas said, “I see my work as solving that problem and helping consumers… be more informed and… hopefully influence companies to change themselves.”
In addition to having the responsibilities of a full stack engineer for the site, his prototyping includes building a vision and future of the product. Jonas enjoys this extra dimension with support from the CEO, who also gives Jonas advice on entrepreneurship and encourages him to think about the impact of his project beyond the timeline of his internship. “The reason they’re doing their work,” said Jonas, “is for the betterment of the world, and… [it] is really inspiring to work for people who think like that. They have been really good mentors and are extremely knowledgeable.”
Emma Mack ’22 | Electrical and Computer Engineering Intern, Multisensor Scientific
Multisensor Scientific, an alum of Greentown, is designing a specialized hardware and software product to combat methane pollution. At the core of their solution is a multispectral camera capable of detecting methane from a distance for application in continuous leak monitoring in the oil and gas industry. Emma’s project is to write the firmware to integrate an anemometer – the technical term for a wind sensor – with the rest of the system, which is an integral piece of the functionality of the system. Not only is she writing code, but she is making important higher-level design decisions about how to integrate the anemometer and is immersed with the R&D process beyond her firmware: “I have been appreciating the variety of different contexts I’ve been able to work in,” described Emma, “So I’m really not confined to one small piece. Since it’s a startup, the mindset is: all-hands-on-deck, everyone has four hats, ‘This thing needs to be done; are you ready to learn?’” How does Emma approach this? Her mindset is having the confidence to dive headfirst into the problem: “If I work hard enough, I will figure it out.”
Emma’s facing of difficult technical challenges is not without mentorship. “People are really happy to meet me where I’m at and teach me how to get where I want to go.” Additionally, she highlighted the extra support she received in the first couple weeks of her internship and her mentor’s support with her learning. The skills Emma gained through her two years at Olin also helped prepare her for these tasks; for example, Emma noted that she took on her design decision responsibility with a deliberate and requirements-based process that she had learned from Olin.
Prior to her internship at Multisensor Scientific which has graduated from the incubator, Emma interned at Blue Sky Energy in Greentown Labs. Speaking to the environment there, Emma said, “You felt like you were in a place where a lot of new and important things were happening… Greentown Labs definitely gave the vibe of, ‘You’re here at an important moment in history, and there is an explosion in life and you get to be a part of it.’” Indeed, Emma describes Multisensor Scientific as a mission-driven company striving to solve a problem that would have an immediate impact on climate change – and she gets to be an important part of that.
Last summer I was a software engineering intern at Multisensor Scientific, and I can echo Emma’s sentiment as I too experienced an internship with a supportive environment where I could make a tangible contribution to the company’s progress.
Underpinning Adi, Jonas, Emma, and my experience is the motif of being supported by coworkers to learn new skills and contribute work that has a significant bearing on the mission of addressing climate change. If you want a similar opportunity, Greentown Labs is one of the first places you should look.