ONE-MA3 – Day XIX: Face-to-Face With 3000-Year-old Artifacts!

July 17th, 20192019 News in Brief, ONE-MA3 2019

By Sophia Mittman '22 Usually, most ancient artifacts can only be seen being displayed behind glass under scattered spotlight, or even from afar behind a rail. Today however, there were no boundaries when it came to analyzing thousand-year-old Egyptian sarcophagi, relic boxes, and statuettes (besides the obvious restrictions of not touching the objects). Each of our four groups ended up analyzing and characterizing one object each. At first the decision of choosing which artifact to analyze was surprisingly difficult. The two large sarcophagi heads were tempting; they were huge, like the ones you would imagine seeing in a documentary on ground-breaking Egyptian excavations. They were colorful and covered entirely with Egyptian paintings, thanks to the dark and dry environment of tombs that they had remained in for thousands of years. How could one turn away from the opportunity to work on such iconic Egyptian artifacts? But, one of the downsides we foresaw was that since the sarcophagi are so large, it would be difficult and time-consuming to obtain a thorough 3D model using photogrammetry and to do VIL (visible induced fluorescence) on it to determine whether or not Egyptian blue existed on its surface, given the time that we had (in the end, it all worked out for the groups that worked on them!). The other two objects were much smaller: a statuette of the Egyptian god Osiris that, like the sarcophagi, still retained a complete layer of painting and hieroglyphics on its surface and a cubical relic box that [...]

By Sophia Mittman ’22

Usually, most ancient artifacts can only be seen being displayed behind glass under scattered spotlight, or even from afar behind a rail. Today however, there were no boundaries when it came to analyzing thousand-year-old Egyptian sarcophagi, relic boxes, and statuettes (besides the obvious restrictions of not touching the objects). Each of our four groups ended up analyzing and characterizing one object each. At first the decision of choosing which artifact to analyze was surprisingly difficult. The two large sarcophagi heads were tempting; they were huge, like the ones you would imagine seeing in a documentary on ground-breaking Egyptian excavations. They were colorful and covered entirely with Egyptian paintings, thanks to the dark and dry environment of tombs that they had remained in for thousands of years. How could one turn away from the opportunity to work on such iconic Egyptian artifacts? But, one of the downsides we foresaw was that since the sarcophagi are so large, it would be difficult and time-consuming to obtain a thorough 3D model using photogrammetry and to do VIL (visible induced fluorescence) on it to determine whether or not Egyptian blue existed on its surface, given the time that we had (in the end, it all worked out for the groups that worked on them!). The other two objects were much smaller: a statuette of the Egyptian god Osiris that, like the sarcophagi, still retained a complete layer of painting and hieroglyphics on its surface and a cubical relic box that was bare on the insides but had distinct paintings on all four of its outer sides.

Taking VIL (visible induced luminescence) photographs of one of the sarcophagi heads

Even though it was small, because it was the oldest artifact of the four options, my group opted to choose the relic box (which is about 3000 years old!). On each of the four sides, there was a painting of an Egyptian god with hieroglyphics running down the side edges and a border of red pigment around each face. Two profiles of the god of the afterlife, Anubis (depicted and known by a dog’s head), were painted on two opposite faces of the box. On the remaining two sides was a classic Egyptian scarab beetle holding a sun above it to represent the sun god Ra and the god of death, Osiris. Our first task was to search for Egyptian blue on the relic box. Just by looking at the paintings visually, we could see details painted in light blue in various locations on all sides, which was an interesting find because many times, over thousands of years, Egyptian blue fades in visible color but still retains all of its crystalline structures and chemical compositions. Our next step was to confirm whether or not this light blue was authentic Egyptian blue or not!

Our group’s VIL and photogrammetry set-up for the ancient relic box

            After setting up a table with cardboard boxes, strong LED lights, and a full-spectrum camera, we proceeded to take pictures of our relic box, rotating it about 20 degrees at a time in between each photograph. After taking a visible light photo, we would change the settings on the camera, attach a filter that doesn’t let any visible light through it (only infrared wavelengths), and then take another photo while blasting the object with infrared-free LED lights. With this VIL technique, we were immediately able to distinguish where Egyptian blue was on our artifact—and fortunately, it was there on all four sides! All of the light blue that we had seen in visible light was in fact Egyptian blue, but interestingly, some of the darker markings on the surface proved to be Egyptian blue as well, only with a slightly weaker strength of luminescence compared to the luminescence of the light blue pigment. We deduced that perhaps in some parts, Egyptian blue could have been mixed with another non-fluorescing pigment, which would cause it to glow less. In addition to performing VIL on our artifact, we also used X-ray fluorescence (XRF) to determine the elements within each color of pigment: red, white, black, blue, and yellow. As we expected, both the red and yellow contained iron, the black was charcoal, the blue was indeed Egyptian blue, and the white was lime, an old friend of ours. All in all, it was fascinating to put our new skills of VIL and XRF to the test by working as actual archeologists on ancient artifacts that had not been thoroughly analyzed using these kinds of technologies before.

Our final VIL results showing where the Egyptian blue is!

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ONE-MA3: Our last day in Italia

July 16th, 2019ONE-MA3 2019

By Meriah Gannon '22 Almost three and a half weeks after we first landed in Italy, our last full day in this country has arrived. Although I was sad to see this day come, I was also excited for our last activity, building gypsum structures! We began the morning with a lecture by Dario Parigi learning about vaulted dome structures which built off of the lecture John Ochsendorf had given us at the American Academy in Rome. Professor Ochsendorf’s lecture had sparked my interest, and I enjoyed learning more. We learned about Hooke’s statement “as hangs the flexible line, so but inverted will stand the rigid arch.” Next, we got to put these teachings into practice. We headed outside where large wooden frames and pieces of canvas were waiting for us. We were told to drape these pieces of canvas over the wooden frames to see their natural curve. Then we were to paint them with gypsum to solidify. Once they set, we inverted them into arches with the wooden frames to support the force. We were given an hour to repeat this process a few times in order to make small prototypes. The goal was in the afternoon, we would divide into two teams and scale up the most successful designs from our prototypes to be one and a half by two meters. If we were successful, we would compete to hold the weight of our professor Admir Masic. My group frantically mixed gypsum, stapled canvas and nailed pieces [...]

By Meriah Gannon ’22

Almost three and a half weeks after we first landed in Italy, our last full day in this country has arrived. Although I was sad to see this day come, I was also excited for our last activity, building gypsum structures! We began the morning with a lecture by Dario Parigi learning about vaulted dome structures which built off of the lecture John Ochsendorf had given us at the American Academy in Rome.

Professor Ochsendorf’s lecture had sparked my interest, and I enjoyed learning more. We learned about Hooke’s statement “as hangs the flexible line, so but inverted will stand the rigid arch.”

Next, we got to put these teachings into practice. We headed outside where large wooden frames and pieces of canvas were waiting for us. We were told to drape these pieces of canvas over the wooden frames to see their natural curve. Then we were to paint them with gypsum to solidify. Once they set, we inverted them into arches with the wooden frames to support the force. We were given an hour to repeat this process a few times in order to make small prototypes. The goal was in the afternoon, we would divide into two teams and scale up the most successful designs from our prototypes to be one and a half by two meters. If we were successful, we would compete to hold the weight of our professor Admir Masic. My group frantically mixed gypsum, stapled canvas and nailed pieces of wood together to finish up three small models. In the end, none of our models were very successful, but we learned important skills such as the proper mixing of gypsum we would use in the coming competition.

Professor Masic helping us measure our canvas [Photo by Carene Umubyeyi ’22]

After lunch,we returned to build our full-scale models. Each team was given three hours to build a full-scale arch. At first, we debated over the design. We had learned through our prototypes that folds in the canvas would increase the strength of our arch, but we were unsure how many folds to construct without making it impossible to stand on the arch. Eventually, with the time ticking away in the back of our minds, we settled on just one-fold. We also decided to add lengths of bamboo across our structure to give it more support.

Students preparing their structures [Photo by Carene Umubyeyi ’22]

Almost immediately, I began mixing gypsum with water. The tricky thing about gypsum is it sets extremely fast, this meant that in order to cover our canvas with enough layers of gypsum we had to be constantly mixing small batches; let it sit out too long and it will harden to a rock in your bucket. The next two hours were a frenzy of mixing gypsum, layering it on the canvas, and cementing down bamboo. One of my jobs was to help cover the bottom of the canvas with gypsum which involved laying underneath the structure and becoming quite covered with gypsum drippings. Finally, we had covered the structure with enough layers of gypsum, about 4 cm thick at the top and at least 6 cm thick in the corners. Then, it was time to clean up before dinner with the promise of testing the structures after the meal.

Layering the gypsum and bamboo [Photo by Carene Umubyeyi ’22]

It was about 11 pm when dinner finished up and we headed back to test our arches by the light our phones. The tricky part about testing the structures was we had to lift them up and flip them over to turn them into arches. The opposing group went first. We all watched with suspense as people surrounded the structure to slowly and carefully flip it over. To our horror, as the structure was being lowered to the ground, it collapsed under its own weight and fell out of its frame. Now it was my groups turn. We looked at our structure nervously and hoped it would survive being flipped. To our delight, it made it to the ground safely, but now it was time for the real test: if it would hold Professor Masic. We decided to start off slowly, and our TA Linda Seymour climbed on the structure first, and it held! She climbed off and another instructor climbed on, and it was able to hold him too.

The final product 

Now it was Professor Masic’s turn, we let out a cheer as he climbed on and the structure held! He got off and excited members of my group climbed on the structure. One person, then two, then three; all the way up to seven people! The structure was supporting them all. Only Stephanie, the last member of our group remained on the ground. We ushered her onto the packed arch and it managed to hold all eight of our group members! But only for a split second- just after Stephanie climbed on, our arch collapsed. We were disappointed, but as we looked at our structure, we noticed that the frame holding our arch had broken. We realized that although our gypsum arch had been able to hold the force of eight people, the wooden frame was unable to hold the force. Our arch had done its job well, but the frame just couldn’t keep up. We cheered as we stood on the crumbled remains of our arch. It was a successful end to ONE-MA3!

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ONE-MA3: Gypsum Adventures in Aramengo

July 16th, 2019ONE-MA3 2019

By Carene Umubyeyi '22 Our last day of ONE-MA3 was spent applying what we learned in Professor Ochsendorf’s lecture at the American Academy in Rome by constructing our own gypsum shell structures using minimal reinforcement. We spent the first part of the morning with a lesson from Dario Parigi on load-bearing structures, with emphasis on the principle of Hooke’s hanging chain—the idea that the shape a hanging chain forms under a set of loads, when made rigid and flipped right side up shows the necessary arched structure needed to support the same set of loads—followed by a lesson from Marco Nicola on gypsum and its chemical properties. Dario Parigi started off the day with a lesson about load-bearing structures  After the morning lessons we proceeded with small-scale experiments of different structural geometries we could create using mesh canvas and gypsum plaster, while still maximizing compressive strength by applying Hooke’s principle. Groups got extra creative with their structures, adding bamboo leaves and saw dust to gypsum mixtures for strengthening. One group even derived inspiration from the Pantheon by adding a miniature oculus in their structure! All this of course had to be done under 5 minutes before the gypsum started hardening and was no longer viscous enough to work with (as we sadly learned during our first attempt). Some groups added bamboo sticks and leaves for additional reinforcement              After a short discussion about lessons learned from the morning experiments, the afternoon was spent building larger gypsum structures (using the same principles) [...]

By Carene Umubyeyi ’22

Our last day of ONE-MA3 was spent applying what we learned in Professor Ochsendorf’s lecture at the American Academy in Rome by constructing our own gypsum shell structures using minimal reinforcement. We spent the first part of the morning with a lesson from Dario Parigi on load-bearing structures, with emphasis on the principle of Hooke’s hanging chain—the idea that the shape a hanging chain forms under a set of loads, when made rigid and flipped right side up shows the necessary arched structure needed to support the same set of loads—followed by a lesson from Marco Nicola on gypsum and its chemical properties.

Dario Parigi started off the day with a lesson about load-bearing structures 

After the morning lessons we proceeded with small-scale experiments of different structural geometries we could create using mesh canvas and gypsum plaster, while still maximizing compressive strength by applying Hooke’s principle. Groups got extra creative with their structures, adding bamboo leaves and saw dust to gypsum mixtures for strengthening. One group even derived inspiration from the Pantheon by adding a miniature oculus in their structure! All this of course had to be done under 5 minutes before the gypsum started hardening and was no longer viscous enough to work with (as we sadly learned during our first attempt).

Some groups added bamboo sticks and leaves for additional reinforcement 

            After a short discussion about lessons learned from the morning experiments, the afternoon was spent building larger gypsum structures (using the same principles) capable of supporting the load of at least 1 Admir*. After more gypsum mixing, adding bamboo leaves/sticks, and a multitude of hands quickly smearing layer upon layer of gypsum on the mesh canvas, two magnificent structures were completed and given a few hours to harden before final testing would begin after dinner.

At around 10 PM, we returned and began preparing for testing. I placed my hand on our structure and was surprised to find it still wet. That’s odd, I thought. Is the other one dry? I walked over and gingerly placed my hand on it. The hardness of the shell confirmed it was.

Sophia Fang ’22 examining her group’s structures

One of the final products

            “It’s not dry”, I heard Dario conclude as he examined our structure, “the gypsum mixture must have contained too much water, interfering with the setting process”. I looked around and saw slow nods of realization. We decided to still test it and see. Placing ourselves all around the wooden frame, we began lifting the structure upwards to flip it over. Halfway up, we felt a sudden shift and the entire structure came loose from the frame and went crashing down. After a sad moment of silence, we regrouped and discussed what could have been done differently in our use of water in the gypsum mixtures.

The next group’s structure was carefully lifted and flipped over successfully. So far, so good. Excitement built as one person was able to stand on the structure, then two, then three, then four, then five, and so on until a full eight people stood on the structure, before it too, finally buckled and collapsed. Everyone cheered for the winning team as they hoisted their trophy and celebrated their gypsum structure. It had successfully held a load of eight people, far surpassing the minimum load of 1 Admir.

Another group’s final product

            This activity was a great conclusion to ONE-MA3, combining different important aspects we had learned about into a fun-filled gypsum structure building competition that taught us the importance of teamwork and learning from our mistakes.

* 1 Admir – a unit of mass invented by ONE-MA3 students for this activity, equivalent to the weight of Professor Masic.

Pantheon-inspired gypsum structure

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The Power of Pigments

July 15th, 2019ONE-MA3 2019

By Sophia Mittman '22 Even though the ONE-MA^3 program has finished, I decided to stay in Italy to work with the University of Turin and the Museo Egizio (Egyptian Museum) studying the pigment Egyptian blue and Egyptian faience. We learned lots about Egyptian blue during ONE-MA^3, but I had no idea how extensive the topic of ancient pigments really is, especially in a scientific—not just historic or artistic—context. As I have been reading through scientific journal papers for this new research project, I not only have learned lots about Egyptian blue and faience, but also about pigments that retain similar and fascinating chemical properties, such as Han blue and Han purple. A close-up example of Egyptian mummy net beads created out of Egyptian blue and faience Just to start, Egyptian blue alone is a mysterious yet seemingly-magical material that the Egyptians first synthesized thousands of years ago and is the first known synthetic pigment ever made. As a crystalline material, it is known as cuprorivaite, a calcium copper silicate. After reagents of copper, silica, calcium, and flux (also referred to as natron or sodium silicate, similar to baking soda) are ground together and fired, the blue pigment that forms is invincible to most types of acid and can retain its crystalline form for thousands of years, evidence that we are eye-witnesses of today. Sometimes the blue color will fade or become contaminated and show a darker color other than blue, but we are still able to identify the pigment as [...]

By Sophia Mittman ’22

Even though the ONE-MA^3 program has finished, I decided to stay in Italy to work with the University of Turin and the Museo Egizio (Egyptian Museum) studying the pigment Egyptian blue and Egyptian faience. We learned lots about Egyptian blue during ONE-MA^3, but I had no idea how extensive the topic of ancient pigments really is, especially in a scientific—not just historic or artistic—context. As I have been reading through scientific journal papers for this new research project, I not only have learned lots about Egyptian blue and faience, but also about pigments that retain similar and fascinating chemical properties, such as Han blue and Han purple.

A close-up example of Egyptian mummy net beads created out of Egyptian blue and faience

Just to start, Egyptian blue alone is a mysterious yet seemingly-magical material that the Egyptians first synthesized thousands of years ago and is the first known synthetic pigment ever made. As a crystalline material, it is known as cuprorivaite, a calcium copper silicate. After reagents of copper, silica, calcium, and flux (also referred to as natron or sodium silicate, similar to baking soda) are ground together and fired, the blue pigment that forms is invincible to most types of acid and can retain its crystalline form for thousands of years, evidence that we are eye-witnesses of today. Sometimes the blue color will fade or become contaminated and show a darker color other than blue, but we are still able to identify the pigment as Egyptian blue because of its fluorescent properties in the infrared spectrum. Like we did in ONE-MA^3, if you take a full-spectrum camera, shine an infrared-free LED light onto the pigment, and take a photo through a lens that only allows infrared light to go through, then the Egyptian blue pigment will luminesce as a bright white or bright blue when everything else in the photograph is either black or grey (this analysis process is known as Visible Induced Luminescence, or VIL). Thus, the bright Egyptian blue pigment emits light, while materials that are black absorb visible light and materials that are grey reflect it. This is why Egyptian blue is undergoing many studies to determine its potential uses in forensics, biomedicine, and optical electronics.

 Han blue synthesized in labs at Aramengo during ONE-MA^3

Another material that is oftentimes confused with Egyptian blue is Egyptian faience. That simply may be because faience, visibly, is a brilliant blue color, ranging from deep ocean blue to light turquoise. But, that’s where the similarities stop. Faience was used by the Egyptians mainly to create ushabti figurines or scarab amulets, but it was not applied as a paint because faience itself is not a crushable pigment like Egyptian blue is. In reality (and to my surprise when I first learned about it), faience is a type of self-glazing material when fired. Inside of its chemical composition is a large amount of silica, making it a ceramic, but not one made of clay, which is usually the case when it comes to ceramics. There are three distinct ways to create faience: application, efflorescence, and cementation. The application method is slightly self-explanatory: figurines are sculpted and then the faience mixture is applied to the outside, and after firing, results in a shiny coat. Efflorescence is where the term “self-glazing” applies most, for it is when a wet mixture of faience is sculpted into the desired figurine and allowed to dry so that salts rise to the surface of the figuring. Once fired, the salt-infused surface becomes a thin, glassy and glossy blue material. Finally, the cementation method is when, like before, figurines are sculpted, but this time they are buried in frit so that when fired and removed from the pile of frit, the surface exposed to the frit leaves a layer of shiny faience. It is mystifying to try to think of how the Egyptians could have discovered such processes to create such beautiful materials, but it has led me to realize that even the ancient Egyptians were indeed incredible scientists of their own.

Han purple painted onto Terracotta Warrior sculptures (picture from crystallography365.wordpress.com)

Finally, another pigment that mimics the properties of Egyptian blue is Han blue and Han Purple. While Egyptian blue is a calciumcopper silicate, Han blue and purple are bariumcopper silicates. Interestingly enough, these two other pigments also have the correct structure to luminesce during VIL analyses, just like Egyptian blue, only slightly less fluorescent. During our lab activities during ONE-MA^3, some of us created Han blue, but we never got to interact with Han purple. Interestingly enough, even though these two materials are structurally and chemically similar to Egyptian blue, they were created in completely different parts of the world in ancient times. While Egyptian blue reigned in Egypt, Han blue and Han purple were supreme in China, where the purple pigment was used to paint the surfaces of some of the famous Terracotta Warrior sculptures and other forms of pottery. More recently, Han purple has been studied as a superconducting material with the ability to reduce three-dimensional structure to two-dimensional structure when placed in extremely cold temperatures and strong electromagnetic fields. Again, just by studying and reading about these archeological advances in materials made by humans thousands of years ago, it is mind-boggling yet indescribably exciting to use what we know about ancient human technologies and apply them to modern research applications today.

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ONE-MA3: Finding the Ever-Elusive “Work-Life Balance”

July 15th, 20192016 News in Brief

By Anna Landler '22 I think that I just received arguably the best lecture of my life. There is some serious competition – I had Professor Eric Lander for 7.012 – but this lecture is certainly up there. The lecture came from John Ochsendorf, MIT professor and Director of the American Academy in Rome. Before I get to the content of that lecture, let me set the scene. We left Sermoneta at 6:50 am to arrive in Rome 3-4 hours later. First stop: the American Academy. It’s a truly incredible institution. Once inside the gate, you pass a picturesque fountain, with modern white edifices on 4 sides, each a studio for one lucky artist. In an effort to not get lost in the details of the amazing interior I will make simple highlights: a staircase opening to a gorgeous courtyard, fountain in the center, stones with ancient Roman inscriptions scattered across the orange walls. Professor John Ochsendorf explaining the meaning of his favorite Roman inscriptions The groin vault ceiling above the table where the fellows at the Academy eat lunch all together. We were lucky to join them! After a quick tour, full of John’s joyful personality and short stories of the historic site (Galileo named the telescope there, which is pretty awesome), it was time for going into the aqueduct (which runs under the Academy), and finally, the lecture. If you had told me that we’d be received an hour and a half long lecture on structural integrity, geometries, design, and materials, I [...]

By Anna Landler ’22

I think that I just received arguably the best lecture of my life. There is some serious competition – I had Professor Eric Lander for 7.012 – but this lecture is certainly up there. The lecture came from John Ochsendorf, MIT professor and Director of the American Academy in Rome. Before I get to the content of that lecture, let me set the scene. We left Sermoneta at 6:50 am to arrive in Rome 3-4 hours later. First stop: the American Academy. It’s a truly incredible institution. Once inside the gate, you pass a picturesque fountain, with modern white edifices on 4 sides, each a studio for one lucky artist. In an effort to not get lost in the details of the amazing interior I will make simple highlights: a staircase opening to a gorgeous courtyard, fountain in the center, stones with ancient Roman inscriptions scattered across the orange walls.

Professor John Ochsendorf explaining the meaning of his favorite Roman inscriptions

The groin vault ceiling above the table where the fellows at the Academy eat lunch all together. We were lucky to join them!

After a quick tour, full of John’s joyful personality and short stories of the historic site (Galileo named the telescope there, which is pretty awesome), it was time for going into the aqueduct (which runs under the Academy), and finally, the lecture. If you had told me that we’d be received an hour and a half long lecture on structural integrity, geometries, design, and materials, I certainly would be intrigued, but hardly jumping up and down in eager anticipation. And yet, as I mentioned, I think it might have been the best lecture I’ve ever received.

So what makes a lecture good? Is it the content? Presentation style? Engagement of the audience?

I think it’s the ability of the lecturer to connect to the audience, not just through direct participation or inherent interest level of the material. What made John so compelling was his ability to connect the content to larger ideas – ideas that we could relate to. That’s not “big picture” in the general sense; it was not just a summary. It’s big picture in that he related his work to wider ideas within the field (such as the abundance of analysis tools and lack of design tools), but also talked about how work itself ought to be. He infused the joy of his work, but also his life into the presentation. As he demonstrated diagrams of thrust lines and models that are “all wrong [over simplified], but some are useful”, he would also mention how academia enables a free lifestyle. He would mention the sense of accomplishment that we all feel after finishing a project. He commented on the amazing opportunities afforded through education – MIT in particular.

John’s uncanny ability to inspire us not just about the material, but the entire culture of learning and research, is something every lecturer should strive for. We all left that room, looking at each other in something reminiscent of awe saying the same thing – “I didn’t even realize time was passing.”

The aqueduct that runs underneath the Academy 

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Cajón del Maipo

July 11th, 2019Study Abroad

By Shannon Wing '22 When making the decision on what to do with my summer, I had two requirements. Number 1: Work within the field of sustainability. Number 2: Be somewhere where I could hike and climb. These two requirements brought me to Santiago, Chile. Chile has some of the highest potential for renewable energy in the world and also houses some of the most beautiful trekking in the world, as I got to experience this past weekend. When arriving to Santiago, I connected with a few other MISTI students as well as an MIT alumna in the area that were interested in hiking and climbing. After formally meeting up for a beer after work and bonding over our experiences with the MIT Outing club, we planned a weekend in Cajón del Maipo. Setting an early morning wakeup, we took off into the mountains and after a quick stop in town to pick up some more friends, eat some cheap empanadas, and ask for some local advice we had our route. “See that mountain over there? Hike to the backside of it, there should be a slope that isn’t too steep or snowy, climb that.” The mountain has no name that we can find, but it sure was beautiful, with 360 degree views of the Andes and no one else in sight. After a few hours or scrambling up scree and postholing through the snow, I celebrated taking the ridge with one of the best meals I have had here [...]

By Shannon Wing ’22

When making the decision on what to do with my summer, I had two requirements.

Number 1: Work within the field of sustainability.

Number 2: Be somewhere where I could hike and climb.

These two requirements brought me to Santiago, Chile. Chile has some of the highest potential for renewable energy in the world and also houses some of the most beautiful trekking in the world, as I got to experience this past weekend. When arriving to Santiago, I connected with a few other MISTI students as well as an MIT alumna in the area that were interested in hiking and climbing. After formally meeting up for a beer after work and bonding over our experiences with the MIT Outing club, we planned a weekend in Cajón del Maipo.

Setting an early morning wakeup, we took off into the mountains and after a quick stop in town to pick up some more friends, eat some cheap empanadas, and ask for some local advice we had our route. “See that mountain over there? Hike to the backside of it, there should be a slope that isn’t too steep or snowy, climb that.”

The mountain has no name that we can find, but it sure was beautiful, with 360 degree views of the Andes and no one else in sight. After a few hours or scrambling up scree and postholing through the snow, I celebrated taking the ridge with one of the best meals I have had here yet: a peanut butter sandwich. Now before you call me out for being a liar, hear me out. This statement is fully justified for three reasons. One, my cooking abilities are questionable. Two, to quote my coworker, “Where did you find Skippy peanut butter? That’s a delicacy around here.” The one jar of crunchy Skippy brand peanut butter that I brought down here has made me many friends, that and my maple syrup. Three, even Chilean’s admit, “go to a peruvian restaurant, their food is better.”


Now, I am back in the office, learning about how new renewable energy plants impact the Chilean power market as well as analyzing the world’s fuel prices. This week I also had the privilege of attending a renewable energy conference with Inodú titled “Hacia un futuro de energía 100% renovable,” where experts in the field debated in english and spanish what the best approach is for Chile to get to 100% renewable energy.

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