Meet Silverado Policy Accelerator's Interns: Yumi Gambrill

02/02/2023 | Silverado Policy Accelerator

In September 2022, Silverado welcomed Yumi Gambrill, a master’s candidate at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, as a Research and Policy Intern. Since then, Yumi has become an indispensable member of our team, jumping head-first into Silverado’s work across our three pillars.

As her internship draws to a close this spring, we sat down with Yumi to hear her reflections on her time at Silverado and to discuss how her experience shaped her career path in public policy.

Interested in Silverado’s internship program? Find more information and apply here.

Silverado Policy Accelerator: People may be surprised to hear you majored in chemistry as an undergraduate. How did you transition from chemistry to international affairs?

Yumi Gambrill: I started off thinking I was going to be a food scientist, but then I ended up studying chemistry at NYU Abu Dhabi because they didn’t have a food science program. But I didn’t want to pass up a great opportunity to do a fully-funded study-abroad program for four years, so that’s how it all started.

Since then, I've taken a very hard pivot from food science to foreign relations. As I was doing research for my undergraduate thesis, I realized that although I really liked doing science, I didn’t want to do bench research or lab work, since it tends to be quite solitary, and I'm actually a pretty social person. I also realized that I liked communicating about science with people that aren't scientists, so I was looking for different ways to still be doing science-y things that weren’t in the lab. I ended up falling into consulting, and just by chance, the team that I joined as a consultant was a defensive security team, and the very first project I worked on was a cybersecurity project. I realized, “Oh, this is like the perfect mix of science and security — and this is actually really, really fun.”

Silverado: What has been the focus of your graduate work at Georgetown?

Yumi: I'm in the tech and security concentration, which is quite broad, but I’ve shaped my program to be mostly cyber-oriented. I'm also working on getting a certificate in Asian Studies, which I've mainly focused on East Asia.

Silverado: Has your work at Silverado overlapped with the work that you’re doing in graduate school?

Yumi: It's been really great — I've probably made my classmates sick of hearing about the stuff I do at work. I haven't necessarily been focusing on cybersecurity explicitly at Silverado, but by working on Silverado’s research about mining and critical minerals, I’ve learned a lot about the upstream components of the technology that we care about in cyber. It’s an interesting way to look at how tech — and everything in the virtual world — is ultimately laid atop these very physical things.

I also ended up doing a final project for a class at Georgetown that was centered around cybersecurity risk in the mining sector, based on some of the work that I encountered as I was doing my research at Silverado. And now I’m working on some of Silverado’s research on Russian sanctions and semiconductors, which is all in the same flow of supporting things that we care a lot about in the cyber context.

Silverado: Has there been a project at Silverado that you’ve particularly enjoyed?

Yumi: In the fall, I was researching critical minerals mining in North America for Silverado’s forum with Principal to Principal’s Supply Chain Task Force. I looked specifically at who owns the mines in Latin America and Canada that produce certain critical minerals and what the geopolitical implications of that ownership might be. It was very cool.

Silverado: Has your work with Silverado changed the way you think about public policy?

Yumi: Absolutely. I think Silverado is very unique in how data-driven its work is. Because of time constraints, there isn't a lot of time for people in the public policy space to go through data and do the statistical analyses of all the data that already exists. But what I like about working at Silverado — and what I've seen in terms of the way that the products that we develop here are received externally — is that it’s very data driven. Not only are we able to come up with recommendations that other people can do something with, but Silverado’s reports become resources that other people and other think tanks refer to as a data source, and that’s because we spend the time to go through that data.

In that sense, I think it all comes back to my scientific training: Everything is ultimately dependent on the data and what the data tells us about where we should go from here. That seems to be something that people value and that Silverado brings a lot of unique insights to.

Silverado: What kind of career path are you envisioning after graduate school? And how has Silverado figured into that plan?

Yumi: I'd like to be involved in continuing to develop data-driven, objective policies in the U.S. government related to cybersecurity, so my time at Silverado’s been quite helpful for that.

Silverado: One final and fun question: Are there any books that you’ve read recently that you would recommend to Silverado’s readers?

Yumi: As a grad student, I don't have the opportunity to read for fun that much, but one of the books  that I'm really enjoying right now is called “The Geography of Thought,” by Richard Nisbett. It’s about the ways that different cultural contexts and historical developments have shaped how people think in the West versus in the East and how we interpret the world. And that has implications for how to do research using non-Western sources, based on these more philosophical insights into how people think.

I’ve also been reading “This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends,” by Nicole Perlroth, who’s a cyber reporter at The New York Times. She’s always been supportive of female representation in cyber, and she’s a great writer, so it’s an interesting dive into the blurry lines of offensive cyber operations.