Position title: (’19)
Posted September 2021 | Written by Sam Hartke
As a Research Analyst at Slipstream, Maddie Koolbeck enjoys the breadth of her work in energy and the mission-driven approach of her projects. A graduate of the La Follette School of Public Affairs with a certificate in Energy Analysis and Policy (EAP), she found the EAP program an important part of her professional development at UW–Madison and encourages current students to make the most of the program’s resources.
After completing undergraduate degrees in economics and environmental studies, Maddie earned her Master of Public Affairs at the La Follette School of Public Affairs. She joined the EAP program because of her interests in environmental issues, and energy issues in particular. While earning her MPA, Maddie completed an internship at Slipstream. Through this internship, she found that the innovation-oriented non-profit was a great fit for her. She enjoyed the applied research projects she worked on and liked that Slipstream seeks to impact energy policy, but through a data-driven, research-based approach instead of direct advocacy or lobbying. When a research analyst position opened up after her internship, she was a natural fit for the job.
On the Research and Innovation team, Maddie works with utilities and state and local governments to explore a variety of energy topics and solutions. She synthesizes existing research with her own data analysis to better understand and plan changes in energy projects and policy. The projects she works on address emerging technology, energy policy, weatherization, and energy efficiency. A typical emerging technology project she might work on would involve quantifying the energy savings of a building project and comparing it to the expected energy savings estimate. Maddie’s typical day involves working with “a lot of data.” She analyzes a variety of datasets to determine the impact of a project or the outcome of a policy change. For example, in one project she has worked on, she utilized costs and emissions data to understand how shifting energy away from the peak time of day would impact total cost and emissions. In addition, Maddie notes that a typical day for her also involves a considerable amount of reading and writing. She reads relevant research and writes out her own research results for clients. Being able to distill technical results into executive summaries that provide clear takeaways for clients is one of the most important aspects of her job.
Working at Slipstream has been a good fit for Maddie because of the applied nature of the research and the variety of work she is involved in there. She appreciates that Slipstream’s projects are tied to a mission that seeks to mitigate climate change, save energy, and benefit people. Research analysts like Maddie are critical to Slipstream’s mission to drive energy initiatives that increase energy efficiency at large scales, finance clean energy projects, and promote low-energy building design. Additionally, Maddie describes herself as a generalist and enjoys that she always has several different projects, which vary in subject area, to stay on top of.
While she finds that she uses many of the skills she developed during graduate school, Maddie emphasizes that being able to write really well is important. Because all of her research is ultimately transferred into writing or presentations, she is constantly distilling her technical findings into clear conclusions and plain language summaries. For instance, she was recently charged with writing an executive summary for a project she had been working on for a year and a half. Deciding which information is important and how to best convey her results is critical to making sure that her research work has the most impact (and greatest potential benefits) for her clients.
Maddie found that being part of the EAP program at UW–Madison was helpful in many ways, and she emphasizes that current graduate students interested in energy careers are already on the right track just by being a part of it. She found her internship at Slipstream in part because another EAP student was interning there, and Slipstream was interested in bringing other EAP students into their internship program. Maddie believes that the recognition of the skills and knowledge that come with being part of the EAP program will only grow. Having the EAP program on a resume is something that employers in Madison already recognize as valuable in a future employee, and Maddie believes that as the program continues to grow, employers around the country will become familiar with it as well.
Maddie also recognizes the benefits of taking foundational technical courses while part of the EAP program. She notes that her past EAP coursework, in particular, “Introduction to Energy Analysis and Policy” (Pub Affr 809) with Dr. Gregory Nemet, has frequently been helpful in her work. When she first started her position at Slipstream, she was surprised at how often she found herself referencing unit conversions and other foundational concepts from the course. The material from this course sets up a broad knowledge base of energy analysis that students are able to use well into their careers. Maddie also uses RStudio in her data analysis work and notes that programming and statistical analysis are great skills to develop for graduate students interested in energy analysis careers.
Additionally, she shares that even though networking is hard, and she didn’t always look forward to it as a graduate student, it is an important part of being an energy professional. “Even if someone you speak with doesn’t have a position for you, they might know someone who does,” she explains.
Maddie is excited to stay involved in projects that interest her at Slipstream and continue making a difference in the future of energy in the Midwest and beyond.