Aspiring for a Sustainable Career

“I aim to contribute to the sustainability industry leveraging my background in Environmental Science & Engineering and the data analytics skills I’ve cultivated at Foster MSBA,” shares Peilun Sun, a student in the class of 2023.  

A Niche Interest

Peilun chose his field of interest in 2012 when he started pursuing an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science from the University of California, Los Angeles. Immediately after graduating with a Bachelor of Science, he transitioned to a Master of Science in Environmental Health Engineering from Johns Hopkins University.  

With several years of experience in the medical device recycling industry, Peilun developed an interest in supply chain sustainability. He decided to expand his skill set to explore the intersection of data analytics with sustainability. Foster MSBA seemed like the best next step. 

Passion Projects at Foster 

In just a year, Peilun has tried his hand at a plethora of co-curricular activities to build his portfolio and hone his skills outside the classroom while gaining technical skills inside the classroom.

He participated in his first Datathon, hosted by DubsTech at UW, an experience he described as “humbling yet enriching with the opportunity to sharpen skills such as analytical, problem-solving, teamwork, and time-management.”

The Climate Risk Lab is another community Peilun spends his time with. With peers from the Foster MSBA cohort as well as zealous students from across the UW, Peilun is working on a project to use language models to extract relevant information from corporate sustainability reports. They hope to encourage exemplary positive efforts and to give investors a better understanding of those efforts.

Through his collaboration with the UW Recycling program, Peilun organizes tours to local recycling facilities and educates staff and students about efficient recycling practices. So far, he has done two tours – one to a Styrofoam recycling facility and another to a landfill place. “We have two more coming up soon, which I am looking forward to,” said Peilun. 

An Award-Winning Idea 

In exploring the wide avenues in the recycling and sustainability field, he came across the EnergyTech University Prize, a competition facilitated by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Technology Transitions. Peilun and his teammate competed with university students across the nation and leveraged a technology developed by the National Labs to innovate a commercialization plan. 

“We were particularly interested in the recycling of rare earth elements,” Peilun shared. “We approached the Sandia National Laboratory and decided to base our project, EcoRare, on that technology.” 

EcoRare is an industry-scale solution for creating a cost-efficient and eco-friendly way to extract rare earth elements by repurposing coal waste. Peilun’s team was named a Bonus Prize Finalist in the UW-hosted EnergyTech UP Coastal Northwest Regional competition.  

“It was intense,” Peilun reminisced about the competition days. “But we were able to employ so many in-class learnings, which made it rewarding.”  

They approached the project with an initial techno-economic analysis to test the economic feasibility of the solution as well as a lifecycle analysis to test the environmental impacts of the solution. They then moved on to develop a model to commercialize the technology in a way that harnesses its advantages while standing out from their competitors.

The course on Finance & Accounting came in especially handy as they built financial projects for EcoRare.  

Peilun’s Professional Pitch 

“I am fascinated by the limitless possibilities in the field of sustainability,” Peilun said. “There is so much that companies can do to foster a climate-friendly reputation and I hope to help them in their endeavor.”  

After graduating in June 2023, with an integrated background in sustainability both academically and professionally, Peilun aims to work as a Sustainability Analyst.  

Wish to make a data-driven career out of your passions? Learn more about how Foster MSBA can support your world-changing dreams.

Written by Niv Joshi
Writer & Content Strategist
[email protected]