Reflecting on the Harvard Tech Review’s Summer 2021 Fellowship

In this century, transformations to society are always accompanied by transformations in technology, and vice versa. The past 17 months (and counting) have inflicted an immense transformation on our reality, while technology — and our relationship with technology — has been evolving as well. The world’s quarantine has required many people to retreat into their homes and their own devices in order to retain a sense of normalcy. Attending weddings and funerals over the computer, learning and studying in pixelated 2-D, making Zoom our new religion… As oxymoronic as it seems, we’ve been searching for human connection through our technology all this time. 

Naturally, the digital format has always been agreeable to the Harvard Technology Review, and this summer, we took advantage of the necessarily remote situation to hold our Summer 2021 Fellowship: New Kids on the Block(chain)

The fellowship (July 26th to August 8th) was a free bootcamp / quasi-pre-orientation program open to rising Harvard first-years interested in trying their hands at researching, writing, and editing an article a la HTR; hanging out virtually with HTR board members and future peers ahead of the school year; and learning from experts about the fellowship theme: blockchain and cryptocurrency! 

No knowledge of blockchain was necessary to take part, so to prepare for writing their articles our 27 fellows attended a series of events and workshops to learn more about the technology. We heard from professionals with first-hand knowledge of blockchain-related industry, including Udit Jain (blockchain investor at PearVC), Aubrey Strobel (head of communications at Lolli, a blockchain-based startup), and Justine Humenansky (member of Komorebi Collective, a DAO focused on funding female and nonbinary crypto founders). On the academic side, we talked about the history and future of cryptography with Professor Boaz Barak, Harvard computer science professor, and learned more about the ins and outs of Bitcoin with Dr. Francisco Marmolejo, postdoctoral fellow at Harvard.

Just a few of the current and possible future uses of blockchain. Source – https://blog.intact-systems.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Blockchain-Use-Cases.png

With newfound knowledge and support from their peers and editors, fellows chose their article topics. Fellows approached the versatile theme of blockchain from all angles, investigating issues inside and outside the system. Some opted to examine up-and-coming applications of blockchain technology in areas as diverse as sustainability, the music industry, and criminal justice. Others looked at the blockchain network itself, discussing systematic issues such as security, privacy, scalability, and environmental impact.

Once topics were chosen, it was time to write! HTR holds its writers to high standards (pandemic or not), and it was no different for our summer fellows. Our senior editors, Sophie and Alex, held a writing workshop to get our fellows started, and from there, our editors guided fellows through the ins and outs of writing a journalistic article for a college publication. Each HTR editor was assigned to a small group of fellows (an editorial group) which met several times over the fellowship to brainstorm, discuss, and peer edit. Editors and fellows also worked one-on-one to refine their pieces ahead of the quickly-nearing deadline. 

Despite summer diversions, Zoom malaise, and the occasional writer’s block, fellows managed to turn their empty Google Doc screens into insightful, well-written articles in just two weeks with the help of their peers, HTR’s board, and our guest speakers. This was an accomplishment in and of itself, and it was made even more remarkable by the difficulty of the subject at hand, blockchain. Each article showcased the individuality of its writer, and together, this collection of articles paints a nuanced picture of the current landscape of blockchain technology. While every article had its merits, there were three that stood out in particular, and those are our fellowship award winners:

  • Editor’s Choice: “Blockchain Behind Bars: The Case for Cryptocurrency in Criminal Justice” – Sophia Scott
  • Creativity Choice: “The Crypto Hellespont: Why Now Isn’t The Right Time To Nationalize” – Jeffrey Wang
  • Writer’s Choice: “Blockchain and Law Enforcement: A Solution for Evidence Mismanagement” – Tahj Johnson

Congratulations to our award winners for your excellent pieces!

The fellowship was also an accomplishment for the HTR Board, which worked extremely hard to make sure the program was a meaningful experience both educationally and socially for the fellows. I am grateful to them for putting up with my constant emails and text messages and being so receptive and adaptable to the challenges that came with planning such a comprehensive program. 

All in all, I had such a wonderful experience running the fellowship, spending time with 27 enthusiastic and thoughtful first-years, and working with the HTR team. I will leave you with some thoughts from our fellows, whose articles are linked at the bottom of the page. Thank you for reading the Harvard Technology Review, and we hope to see you on our website again soon! — Paige

Reflections from our Summer 2021 Fellows:

“The HTR fellowship empowered me with the mentorship and resources to effectively amplify my voice, all the while learning from peers and mentors. It was a fantastic experience to immerse in all of the diverse perspectives and was an awesome introduction into the Harvard innovation community.”

“My favorite part of the fellowship was, without a doubt, meeting other incoming freshmen who share my interest in science writing. Even with this shared interest, the group was so diverse in their backgrounds and specialties, which made for a great experience.”

“To be honest, I loved everything about it. Most of all, the support I was getting from my editor, while I was in the process of exploring academic/journal kind of writing for the first time, was priceless. And then there is the fact that I learned a lot about the block-chain, hangout a lot with my roommate and peers, meet some great people, and much more.”

“My favorite part of the fellowship was definitely getting to know the current members of the HTR staff. All the people I talked to were incredibly helpful, offering advice on everything from cryptocurrency investment to course registration to research opportunities. It’s also very reassuring to know that there are upperclassmen I can turn to for help if I have any questions once I get on campus. In a similar vein, I really enjoyed the Surviving at Harvard Panel because it gave me the chance to hear more about HTR members’ unique college experiences—the insight shared at the panel was much appreciated!”

“My favorite part of the fellowship was receiving individualized feedback from my editor throughout the article-writing process! I really appreciated getting one-on-one support for every step along the way—from brainstorming, to outlining, to crafting each new draft.”

“Loved the informational talks from professors and the workshops. I gained a lot of insight and learned a ton from them.”

“My favorite part of the fellowship was when I decided on a topic and was then working on gathering experts’ opinions. I loved the work and had a lot of fun doing the project as I had lots of room for creativity. I love the outcome of these two weeks of work and I’ll always like looking back at it.”

“The blockchain panel on the second day was, by far and away, my favorite part of the fellowship. I remember some grumblings about its order—as it was placed very early on at a time when many fellows did not yet have much background in blockchain. While this was also a bit of an issue for me, I really appreciated the incredibly broad scope of the panel—one which allowed me to jot down a ton of keywords and set mental sparks that ran the gamut of topics. My article inspiration ultimately originated from the panel, and its early date meant that I had the opportunity to communicate (and even meet with!) some of the panelists; one of those interactions eventually led to some quotes in my article.”

All of the articles (by category) from the fellowship can be found below. 

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