Meghan O’Dell thought she had prepared herself for life in The White City of Yucatán, but the experience was greater than she could have imagined
Biology major Meghan O’Dell getting ready for an early morning of animal tracking

On-site engineering

In a small consulting company in Mérida, Yucatán, Meghan worked as both a coastal engineer and a biologist. Her first project at Axis Ingeniería focused on assessing the status and effectiveness of the beach protection structures along a 15 km stretch. This detailed census was critical for improving these beaches and preventing threats to the beachfront homes.

Meghan's second project rotated through several different Environmental Impact Assessments that Axis was contracted to complete for different construction companies planning to build structures ranging from solar homes to hydropower plants to vacation condominiums. The immense heat of the area required working at odd hours to be able to observe animals that only move when the sun has gone down. While the internship was challenging, local scientists modeled a great attitude: “They had a great sense of humor when things went wrong,” Meghan remembers. She also embraced the social side of work, which fit naturally with her own style. “I definitely also like the idea of getting to know your coworkers and business associates before making deals with them, and I hope to find a job in a similar work environment."

The culture in biology

Apart from an opportunity to address the environmental status of Yucatán, Meghan was able to experience the natural beauty of the peninsula, the cultural pride of the people and the joy of finding oneself out of one’s comfort zone. “MISTI is an opportunity like no other, even here at MIT,” she says. “We are given all these chances to make something of ourselves, to do something great in the world, but how can we do that without knowing what the world looks like?”

After her summer in Mexico, Meghan is empowered to employ her strengths in efforts to improve the lives of those less fortunate. She is now more involved in community service and interested in programs such as Teach for America. “I'm now switching from biology to a joint biology-anthropology degree, because I have a whole new appreciation for what culture means."

  • Mexico
  • Internship
  • Bio/Chem