By Nikita Darbar, Senior, Chemical Engineering

I enjoy pursuing any art form, from ballet and hip-hop to sketching and shading in my free time. My favourite TV shows include Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and Narcos.

Why did you choose to be an engineer?

The broad range of career opportunities it offers.

The impact that sustainable energy production and storage methods can have on entire communities astounds me. Growing up in Nairobi, Kenya, my days were typically filled with talk regarding the lack of access to electricity in rural parts of the country and how the absence of this basic necessity was negatively influencing the lives of the poverty stricken. Towards the end of my high school career I began to realize that the problem was the lack of technology that utilizes our abundance of resources to create energy that meets the demands of the people in an efficient and viable way. This problem therefore shaped my career aspirations and pushed me towards pursuing a degree in Chemical Engineering. I strongly believed that the interdisciplinary skills I would gain in this field would tap into my interests regarding the energy space and would, in the long run, allow me to give back to Kenya all that it has given me thus far. This would help me create a small but rewarding impact on the world around me.

During my freshman year, I had the privilege to carry out research in the Chemical Engineering department. I worked on a project which focused on decreasing the greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles by creating nanoparticles that would increase the efficiency of catalytic converters. Though this process was fulfilling, I felt that I would rather focus on applied research instead of theoretical research. I therefore focused on start-ups when searching for a summer internship opportunity in order to get a better feel of the innovation, production and real-world applications of my future career. I found my calling through the TomKat Centre for Sustainable Energy based at Stanford. One of their partnered start-up companies named Antora Energy immediately appealed to me. Antora Energy focuses on developing long-duration energy storage systems to allow for the universal deployment of wind, solar and other renewable energy sources. Their revolutionary technology allows the combination of high-temperature thermal energy storage and novel, high-efficiency thermo-photovoltaic energy conversion. When required, the photovoltaic cells in the system are exposed to thermal radiation produced by an emitter in contact with the thermal storage medium thereby generating electricity. The ultimate goal of Antora Energy is to combat the energy storage problem and allow global implementation of renewable energy production methods.

I believe that the technology created at Antora Energy will be directly applicable in Kenya. This long-term energy storage solution will provide millions of low-income individuals in Kenya with an essential resource because of its low manufacturing costs and incorporation of inexpensive materials. Pursuing an Engineering degree has allowed me to have an impact, no matter how small, on the broader issue of lack of sustainable energy sources and has given me the opportunity to apply my knowledge to my home country in the future.

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