Social Impact Internships: Anika Wadhera (’25)
My name is Anika Wadhera and I am a freshman from Fremont, CA planning to major in biological engineering (Course 20) and biology (Course 7). Having a vested interest in public health and combating climate change from high school experiences, this IAP, I joined the Florida Institute for Health Innovation (FIHI) as an Environmental Health Equity Analyst. FIHI is a nonprofit organization that aims to conduct research with the goal of shaping policy to improve the delivery of healthcare.
One of the main projects I worked on was a webinar to educate the public about the Piney Point disaster, an environmental crisis in early 2021, in which a reservoir holding toxic byproducts from mining was breached. This devastated the Tampa Bay ecosystem, leading to pollution and algal blooms that continue to affect the industry in the area. With climate change increasing the frequency and severity of tropical storms, these events will continue to occur, and it is thus important to be aware of failures that occurred in the past to prevent them from happening in the future.
Through my internship, I learned more about how climate and health equity are connected, a trend that must be used to guide how these issues should be tackled. In Florida, heat, flooding, and air quality are additional issues that will be exacerbated due to global warming, but don’t receive adequate attention. In order to bring greater awareness to these problems and call citizens and lawmakers to action, FIHI and MIT interns have been conducting a literature analysis for further education and policy reform. During IAP, I’ve learned about other ways in which advocacy can be conducted, even in times like these when it can be difficult to work with people most affected by the issues on the ground. Education and research are powerful, but often undervalued, tools to shape policy and raise awareness.
The PKG Center’s Social Impact Internships are a great way for students to get an in-depth look at the work people are doing to combat the greatest problems society is facing, and I would encourage all MIT students to spend time using their skills to give back to these communities on the front line.