Harvey Mudd College senior Natasha Allen (physics) has been awarded a prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship for a project that examines universal energy access. Forty fellows were chosen for 2016 from more than 700 candidates worldwide.
The Watson Fellowship is a one-year grant for purposeful, independent study outside the United States, awarded to graduating seniors nominated by one of 40 partner colleges. Recipients use their $30,000 stipend for a year of personal insight and perspective that shapes the arc of their lives.
Allen’s project, titled “Switching On: The Pursuit of Universal Access to Energy,” focuses on methods for providing reliable energy access in underserved countries to help spur economic and social development and eradicate poverty. Allen will examine the innovation, funding practices, research and policy-making that are integral to tackling the challenge of universal energy access. During her Watson year, she will travel to Cambodia, Uganda and Ethiopia—each of which poses its own unique challenges to overcoming critical energy issues.
“Today, roughly two billion people lack access to electricity and clean cooking technology,” says Allen. “I hope to gain a more complete picture of the global energy access landscape and to understand which areas are hindering development. Immersing myself in local communities, I will explore how people engage with energy and how it can transform their relationship with the world around them.”
Allen has extensive experience with projects designed to meet needs in underserved communities, such as with We Care Solar, an organization that works to bring reliable electricity to maternal clinics in the developing world. She also has an impressive history of involvement in local community engagement. In her capacity at Homework Hotline, Allen has served as a teacher and mentor to other tutors. She helped found the Coalition for the Empowerment of Education, Leadership and Independence (CEELI) at The Claremont Colleges, which works to eliminate poverty by empowering communities. A recipient of the Strauss Internship for Social Understanding (2013), the Ben Huppe Internship for a Sustainable World (2015) and Outstanding Mudder Award (2015), Allen is also a residence hall proctor.
Since the Watson Fellowship’s inception in 1968, 33 Harvey Mudd students have received the award. Watson alumni serve as leaders in a broad range of fields.