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The power of knowledge

Senior Joshua Kuffour has set a goal of taking classes in as many departments as he can before he graduates. “It's taught me about valuing different ways of thinking,” he says.
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Josh Kuffour smiles while sitting on one of the steps in the amphitheater outside the Stata Center.
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Caption: “Try as many things as possible even if you think you know what you want to do, and appreciate everything life has to offer,” says Joshua Kuffour.
Credits: Photo: Philip Keith

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Josh Kuffour smiles while sitting on one of the steps in the amphitheater outside the Stata Center.
Caption:
“Try as many things as possible even if you think you know what you want to do, and appreciate everything life has to offer,” says Joshua Kuffour.
Credits:
Photo: Philip Keith

In his early career at MIT, Josh Kuffour’s academic interests spanned mathematics, engineering, and physics. He decided to major in chemical engineering, figuring it would draw on all three areas. Then, he found himself increasingly interested in the mathematical components of his studies and added a second major, applied mathematics.

Now, with a double major and energy studies minor, Kuffour is still seeking to learn even more. He has made it a goal to take classes from as many different departments as he can before he graduates. So far, he has taken classes from 17 different departments, ranging from Civil and Environmental Engineering to Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences to Linguistics and Philosophy.

“It’s taught me about valuing different ways of thinking,” he says about this wide-ranging approach to the course catalog. “It’s also taught me to value blending disciplines as a whole. Learning about how other people think about the same problems from different perspectives allows for better solutions to be developed.”

After graduation, Kuffour plans to pursue a master’s degree at MIT, either in the Technology and Policy Program or in the Department of Chemical Engineering. He intends to make renewable energy, and its role in addressing societal inequalities, the focus of his career after graduating, and eventually plans to become a teacher.

Serving the public

Recognizing the power of knowledge, Kuffour says he enjoys helping to educate others “in any way I can.” He is involved with several extracurriculars in which he can be a mentor for both peers and high school students.

Kuffour has volunteered with the Educational Studies Program since his first semester at MIT. This club runs Splash, “a weekend-long learning extravaganza,” as Kuffour puts it, in which MIT students teach over 400 free classes on a huge variety of topics for local high school students.

For his peers, Kuffour also participates in the Gordon Engineering Leadership Program (GEL). Here, he teaches first-year GEL students leadership skills that engineers may require in their future careers. In doing this, Kuffour says he develops his own leadership skills as well. He is also working as a teaching assistant for multivariable calculus this semester.

Kuffour has also served as an advisor for the Concourse learning community; as president of his fraternity, Beta Theta Pi; as a student representative on the HASS requirement subcommittee; and as a publicist for the Reason for God series, which invites the MIT community to discuss the intersections of religion with various facets of human life.

Renewable energy

Kuffour’s interest in energy issues has grown and evolved in recent years. He first learned about the ecological condition of the world in the eighth grade after watching the climate change documentary “Earth 2100” in school. Going into high school and college, Kuffour says he started reading books, taking classes, watching documentaries, participating in beach and city clean ups, to learn as much as possible about the environment and      global warming.

During the summer of 2023, Kuffour worked as an energy and climate analysis intern for the consulting company Keylogic and has continued helping the company shift programming languages to Python for evaluating the economics of different methods of decarbonizing electricity sectors in the U.S. He has also assisted in analyzing trends in U.S. natural gas imports, exports, production, and consumption since the early 2000s.            

In his time as an undergraduate, Kuffour’s interest in renewable energy has taken on a more justice-focused perspective. He’s learned over the course of his that due to historical inequalities in the U.S., pollution and other environmental problems have disproportionately impacted people of lower economic status and people of color. Since global warming will exacerbate these impacts, Kuffour seeks to address these growing inequalities through his work in energy data analysis.        

Translating interests into activity

Kuffour’s pursuit to expand his worldview never rests, even outside of the classroom. In his free time, he enjoys listening to podcasts or watching documentaries on any subject. When attempting to list all his favorite podcasts, he cuts himself off, saying, “This could go on for a while.”

In 2022, Kuffour participated on a whim with a group of friends in an American Institute of Chemical Engineers competition, where he was tasked with creating a 1-by-1 foot cube that could filter water to specifications provided by the competition. He says it was fun to apply what he was learning at MIT to a project all the way in Arizona. 

Kuffour enjoys discovering new things with friends as much as on his own. Three years ago, he started an intramural soccer team with friends from the Interphase EDGE program, which attracted many people he had never interacted with before. The team has been playing nearly every week since and Kuffour says the experience has been, “very enriching.”

Kuffour hopes other students will also seek out knowledge and experiences from a wide range of sources during their undergraduate years. He offers: “Try as many things as possible even if you think you know what you want to do, and appreciate everything life has to offer.”

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