Introduction: Emily Albrecht, Community Research Fellow

My name is Emily Albrecht and I am a senior here at the University of Pittsburgh. I am majoring in psychology, minoring in economics and applied statistics, and getting a certificate in sustainability. At Pitt, I was a Resident Assistant for two years, currently have a community engagement internship in the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation and serve as the vice president for the University’s Hydroponics Club. In my free time, I enjoy reading, bullet journaling, and going hiking at the beautiful parks in and around Pittsburgh! After I graduate in May of 2022, I hope to attend a master’s program in environmental psychology to better understand the human dimension of sustainable development. I’m interested in pursuing a career in developing environmental policies and finding policies that would both be effective and socially accepted. 

This year, I am working with Dr. David Sanchez to look at different trends in the local food economy. Right now, the topic of research is broad — we want to look at local food availability, security, and how this impacts people’s well-being. We are hoping that the research done this year can help guide us to look at a more specific area of focus. Some other topics of focus for this type of research can be to look at economic metrics for food in the area such as food price fluctuations, or even looking at suggested availability and resources for fresh and healthy food. I feel that this research is important because everyone should have access to fresh food and not have to worry about their food accessibility. 

The community research fellowship allows me to practice my knowledge of statistics and data science in a real-world situation. Learning about data science is quite new to me, but is a skill that I feel is very important and would like to learn more about. Being a psychology major, looking at data and understanding statistics is crucial in making further insights and conclusions, and I want to strengthen my ability to do that the best that I can. I have started learning more about how to use programming languages, such as R and Python, in order to perform data wrangling and data visualization. For my specific research project, I will focus on doing this in Python. I have never used Python before, and this scholarship is both giving me the opportunity to both learn a new programming language and to do research on the local food economy. 

This project first interested me because of my experience in the Hydroponics Club. In our club, we grow food that gets donated back to a community in Pittsburgh. Both living in Pittsburgh and by being in the Hydroponics Club, I have learned a lot about food deserts and how this impacts most people in the city. I have been able to experience firsthand what it is like living in a food desert, and this was a huge change for me compared to where I grew up in New Jersey. Where I grew up, I was privileged in having access to fresh food grown at local farms. Because of the drastic change in this type of readily available access by my moving to Pittsburgh, I have a deeper understanding of how living in a food desert can impact the way we eat. This is what makes me excited to do research on this topic, because of the potential impact we can make by helping people feel secure in their local food accessibility. 

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