MIT master’s student Alissa Jones spends a good share of her days in a nerve-jangling Wisconsin foundry, where, wearing a hard hat, goggles, and earplugs, she’s working to help the company streamline its production processes.
In her spare time, she’s a lead organizer of a major conference on innovation set for next March in Cambridge.
Energy is the thread that links the two activities. The foundry project is about finding efficiencies. “We’re building a model to analyze how the materials and energy go into the facility, their pathway through, and how they come out,” notes Jones, a New Yorker who’s part of the MIT Laboratory for Environmentally Benign Manufacturing. “Say you have a technology that increased yield by two percent: you’d need fewer incoming materials, and you’d also have less waste.”
Though the project focuses on a single plant, Jones’ findings, with those from colleagues at MIT and Penn State, could help the entire metals reprocessing industry.
The conference is the second round of “Energy 2.0,” assemblages at which industry representatives, venture capitalists, activists, academics, and students discuss topics like biofuels, nuclear power, and solar technologies.
This past year’s gathering drew 400, among them many professionals in the field. The student and her fellow organizers are aiming for 500 next year.
Jones says the vast amount of time required is well worth it. “You get to meet a lot of people who are really knowledgeable about energy and the renewables industry,” she notes. “It’s exciting.”