Hamsa Ganapathi, N22

School: Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy

Program: Master’s in Agriculture, Food, and Environment

Dream job: Rewriting federal agriculture and food policy to plan for a changed climate future

What drew you to climate change work?

Climate change is going to be one of the biggest and most consistently impactful events on Earth, and I want to be a part of creating solutions for the changed world we will see.

I’m interested in using climate models and agricultural science to study how the foods we grow and eat every day will be affected by changes in climate, and how we can plan for those changes. For me, this work is incredibly meaningful and important. If I can connect the huge-scale event of climate change to the small things—individual farmers and the food on people’s plates—then I’m doing what I can to help avoid the catastrophic situations related to our climate crisis.

How has your thinking changed at Friedman?

I’ve learned to be more inquisitive about any aspect of the food system. Asking questions to hear all sides of the story, positive and negative, has been a huge part of my training. For example, I’ve learned that increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can decrease the nutritional value of the foods we grow, but it can also increase the yields of some crops.

I understand it can be frustrating that science doesn’t always have a straight answer, but I enjoy the fact that there isn’t one. It forces us to think about food in different ways, and to be more holistic in how we address problems.

What do you hope to accomplish in your work after graduation?

One of my professors, Julian Agyeman, used a phrase in a class once that has really stuck with me: “being an activist academic.” If you have the opportunity to do research that affects people and society, there’s a certain responsibility to explore how your research can improve equitable outcomes in the world.

It’s no secret there’s a lot of injustice in the world. Those who have been systemically underprivileged are often shut out of traditional opportunities for social improvement. I want to integrate my scientific research with policy work, and help address climate, agriculture, and food policy issues in a more equitable, inclusive, and Earth-friendly way.

This profile originally appeared as part of the series “Profiles in Inspiration: Commencement 2022 Spotlights."

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