My biggest interest is the engineering challenge of creating climate resiliency in urban settings.
High schoolCambridge Rindge and Latin School
As a Civil and Environmental Engineering major at MIT, the subject of building resilient and adaptable cities is the kind of work that gets Clio Macrakis talking. “My biggest interest is the engineering challenge of creating climate resiliency in urban settings. Although we need to continue efforts to curb human-caused climate change, its effects are already being felt. We need to take steps now to deal with everything from storm surge to heat waves.”
Clio is the daughter of two European immigrant families, and so has long been aware of the ways that Europe has outpaced the U.S. in responding to climate change. A summer spent in Venice studying that city’s massive floodgate project caused her to wonder if focusing on smaller, more modular and adaptable systems might be the best approach from an engineering perspective. “There is still a lot of uncertainty about climate change. Even if you agree that we need to do something, because we can’t fully predict climate change’s future impacts, it’s often not clear what needs to be done,” laments Clio. “And the answers can vary by community. I’m interested in developing adaptive solutions that can flex over time. For example, coastal parks can be built with raised areas, similar to seawalls, but you can alter their height, size, and contours to respond to future changes more easily than with concrete walls.”
As Clio prepares to graduate, the Thoreau Foundation community is an important part of what keeps her grounded. “At MIT, everyone is so dedicated to their department or personal projects, it’s easy to get hyper-focused on the task before you. Every time I reconnect with other Scholars and alumni, I am inspired by the directions in which they have taken their passion for environmental sustainability. It reminds me why we do this work.”
Clio takes notes on the characteristics of ancient building materials at an archeological site in Italy.