Letter of Impact: Elina Hoffman

May 27, 2020

Good Afternoon, 

 

I hope this email finds you all well, and that you and your families are staying safe.

 

This past Thursday, I successfully graduated from Hopkins with my Bachelors in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and my minor in Engineering for Sustainable Development (!!). Though I always knew I wanted to study engineering at Hopkins, I was equally sure that I did not want to pursue a traditional engineering career. Instead, I have had a long standing interest in Science and Technology Policy, and so I pieced together courses at Hopkins that I felt would prepare me for this field. 

 

Until this past October, however, I had had no formal exposure to the technology policy field. I wanted a better understanding of the research being conducted prior to committing myself to graduate studies in this field, and so searched for papers and conferences that could inform my decision.

 

After much googling, I found the Atlanta Conference on Science and Innovation Policy: a three-day conference with 13 sessions, over 70 presentations, and ample networking opportunities. Between transportation, accommodation, and registration, however, I wouldn’t have been able to attend were it not for the WSE funds provided to me. In September, I reached out to Dr. Schoenberger and Dr. Ratanalert to ask whether funds were available to support conference attendances, and I cannot overstate the significance of the $600 that they were able to acquire on my behalf. In covering the registration and transportation costs, WSE enabled me to attend the conference. 

 

Upon arriving in Atlanta, I realized I was the only undergraduate student in attendance at the conference, and that my research from a prior summer internship was being presented. This introduction allowed me to speak to experts in the field who had flown to the conference from across the world, eating lunch with distinguished professors from Spain, the Netherlands, MIT, and so forth.

Dr. Erica Fuchs spoke on the conference’s Opening Plenary Panel, and I was caught by the content and presentation of her arguments on the fourth technological revolution; my notes for her portion were circled and stared and underlined. I heard other conference attendees gushing over her, talking about what a big deal it was that they managed to get her to attend the conference. I also managed to speak to one her previous PhD students (John Helveston) at the conference. 

 

After the conference, I reached out to Dr. Erica Fuchs, thereby starting multiple Skype meetings and informal interviews: I received my admissions letter to the Engineering and Public Policy (EPP) PhD program at Carnegie Mellon in December, after she asked the department to make me an offer. 

 

Throughout this process, I continued to research other programs and professors, and though I applied (and was accepted) to other universities, I never found another program or topic that appealed to me as much as Erica’s. I likely wouldn’t have learned of her work, or had the same leg-up in networking, had Hopkins not enabled me to attended that conference. I will be starting my PhD with Erica in August, and am already working with her on COVID-19 supply chain research now. 

 

I know there is no formal initiative to provide students with funding, but the funding I received from Hopkins undoubtedly shaped my post-graduation trajectory, and I could not be more thankful. I hope you continue to provide other students with similar opportunities. 

 

Best, 

Elina Hoffmann 

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