Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Lauren Streitmatter (Year 4, EngSci) is graduating with a major in Energy Systems Engineering and a minor in Environmental Engineering. It’s a far cry from the “fictional bears” that first inspired her to look deeper into environmental issues.
“I’ve always loved reading and there was a book about an oil spill from the perspective of a family of bears that I never forget reading as a child,” she reveals. “The sadness I felt reading about the destruction caused by oil spills stuck with me and evolved into a desire to protect the environment, first through individual choices like going vegetarian then through my academic studies.”
“The interest and care I developed for non-human characters and the environment through books extended to the real living world and paired with my interests in science and math to push me to pursue environmental engineering, more broadly.”
Rooted in an early passion for environmental issues, Streitmatter has continuously sharpened her area of interest through studies in science, mathematics and energy engineering. A strong sense of “core impact” projects has now emerged: energy modelling, grid decarbonization and equitable design.
Streitmatter has twice competed in MIT Hackathons, with her team becoming a finalist in 2020 for the analysis and policies they recommended to guide equitable bicycle infrastructure installation in Southern California.
As Co-President of U of T’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) in 2020-21, Streitmatter supervised 180+ members developing projects and running awareness events across six portfolios. As the Environmental Sustainability Director (ESD) of U of T’s Engineering Society 2022-present, Streitmatter is engaging with engineering faculty to increase sustainability coverage in the curriculum. She credits her involvement in the 2020 ILead Summer Fellowship for early learnings in leadership best practices.
“I learned there is a challenge in finding something to work on that’s actually meaningful and impactful,” she says. “So I’ve learned to address root causes for impact, to really think about how to create systemic change by looking at the core of the problem.”
“One of the items I chose to focus on through the ESD was the curriculum. That’s because in trying to update engineering curriculum, you have an impactful way to reach a large body of students.”
In 2019, Streitmatter worked as an Engineering Intern in Santiago, Chile, conducting health and efficiency data analysis of solar plants, and in 2022 toured Icelandic hydro and geothermal power plants as well as attending lectures at Reykjavik University. She also continues to work as an undergraduate researcher with the UC San Diego Renewable Energy and Advanced Mathematics Lab, building a renewable microgrid model to optimize for environmental justice, and analyzing the viability of hydrogen storage.
As an Energy Consultant with Posterity Group Consulting Inc. from 2021-2022, analyzing policy impacts and greenhouse gas reduction pathways for major North American energy utilities, Streitmatter gained valuable professional experience. She looks forward to further professional development post-graduation as she commences employment with the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL)
“I like the system wide view or reach of government bodies,” concludes Streitmatter. “I think that’s also what drew me to the electricity sector, in general – the grid itself is something that reaches nearly everyone.”
“I enjoy the complexity of equitable grid decarbonization, and how you need to leverage system thinking and an understanding of technical details to create change in this field. It feels more impactful and rewarding that way.”