My Summer at Boundless Impact Research & Analytics

Tiffany Chui, SEAS Masters in Material Science & Engineering, 2024

This past summer, I had the opportunity to join Boundless Impact Research & Analytics, a firm that focuses on conducting environmental impact assessment, as a Research Analyst intern. I assisted with analyzing the environmental impact of different technologies. 

As a materials scientist, I strive to develop novel materials for sustainability. In my past internships, I have developed animal-free and plastic-free leather alternative materials and biodegradable foam. Through these experiences, I began to wonder whether the products I was developing were truly sustainable. Biodegradable materials undergo degradation under specific conditions and do not degrade in a landfill environment. Nonetheless, they might be more energy-intensive in the manufacturing process than conventional materials. This makes me wonder how I could redefine the standards of sustainable materials. 

Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) studies a product’s environmental impact in-depth and provides metrics that help determine whether a product is more sustainable than its alternative. I believe that LCA could juxtapose factors that contribute to the environmental footprint of materials, which taught me how to make better decisions when developing novel sustainable materials.   

Currently, carrying out a LCA is very costly and time-consuming, making LCA inaccessible. One of Boundless Impact Research & Analytics’ goals is to make LCA more accessible by developing a rapid LCA approach. As a member of Boundless Impact Research & Analytics’ team, I am grateful for the opportunity to witness and engage with their distinctive approach to LCA. 

During my internship, I analyzed the environmental impacts of alternative proteins and alternative leather materials. Through my projects, I gained a deeper understanding of LCA, especially the challenges associated with LCA when comparing different technologies. For instance, there are many different factors and assumptions in LCA studies, making it challenging to create a fair comparison between LCA studies. Thus, it is essential to understand the scope of each LCA study. Furthermore, this summer taught me that carbon footprint is not the sole metric in determining sustainability; other factors, such as land use and water footprints, are also essential. 

I am thankful for the support from GAPSA Summer Internship Funding and the opportunity to join Boundless Impact Research & Analytics as a Research Analyst intern. As a materials scientist, my research experience has been limited to a laboratory setting. This opportunity allows me to gain insight into the role of a research analyst and consultant, which is invaluable in helping me decide my future career direction. Even if I decided to continue pursuing a career as a research scientist, I now have a much better understanding of what factors determine whether a material is truly sustainable. 

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2023 GAPSA Summer Internship Funding Program that is coordinated by Penn Career Services. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

By Career Services
Career Services