Written By: Tanushi Sahai
WD&E Communications Student Assistant
Brennon Marcano, Chief Executive Officer of the National GEM Consortium, and Dr. Marcus Huggans, Executive Director of Client Relations, visited the three GEM fellows at Berkeley Lab this summer, Ileana Callejas, Tadewos Getachew, and Viviana Vela, on Monday, July 15th. Brennon and Marcus perform annual site visits to each of their GEM fellows placed in various employers across the nation. Upon asking Brennon how he handles travelling all over the country nonstop, he replied, “Seeing the fellows is what makes it worth it.”
Ileana is working with Dr. Eoin Brodie, Senior Scientist, analyzing microbial metagenomes through field measurements of gas flux and nutrient transformations. Ileana recently completed her M.S in Civil Engineering and is going on to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Tadewos is working with geochemist Bhavna Arora to develop a hydrological model to estimate groundwater pumping in Central Valley, California. He is applying machine learning techniques to provide a computationally affordable and simple alternative to physically based models. Tadewos attended the University of California, Davis and graduated with a B.S in Civil Engineering and will be going on to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor to pursue a Master’s in Environmental Engineering. He aspires to earn a Ph.D.
Viviana is working with Dr.Hang Deng, Research Scientist, to study the coupling of Micro-Reactions and Micro-Mechanics. She is focusing on its’ impact on unconventional oil and gas production. Viviana attended the University of California, San Diego where she graduated with a B.S in Structural Engineering, moved on to receive her M.S in Civil Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Civil Engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The GEM fellowship program supports underrepresented minority groups pursuing a Master’s and/or Doctoral degree by providing financial support and access to research opportunities to help them through their academic pursuits. The GEM National Consortium was founded over 40 years ago and has built a vast network of fellows, employers, and mentors all working towards providing solid talent and addressing the diversity deficit in the workplace. Each year, around 2,000 applications come in and 1,000 fellows get chosen. Unfortunately, less than 50% of GEM fellows get placed in an internship. The problem? A shortage in mentors. Dr. Bill Collins, Director of the Climate & Ecosystems Sciences Division, is a big advocate for the GEM program. Dr. Collins believes the lack of mentors comes from a lack of familiarity, “They don’t know what the GEM interns can deliver just yet.” All GEM fellows have come back with nothing less than raving reviews from their mentors. In fact, in Dr. Collins’ Division, Dr. Collins has noted that, “mentors get competitive for GEM interns.”
The GEM program is an excellent resource not only for minority students looking to get extra support, but also for researchers and PI’s who will have access to a vetted talent pool full of the best and brightest. Bhavna and Hang, mentors from Dr. Collins’ division, participated in the judging process for this year’s GEM applicants. Bhavna recalls that, “the judging was pretty intensive… everyone had the strongest desire to succeed.” Both mentors noted the determination and passion that came across from each intern. So Dr. Collins’ last piece of advice? “Run, don’t walk to get a GEM intern.”
To learn more about the GEM program, visit https://education.lbl.gov/internships/gem/. Berkeley Lab has been a member of the national GEM consortium since 2017 and the Workforce Development and Education department has worked tirelessly to create opportunities for the fellows ever since. With the help of Horst Simon, who has been a champion for the GEM program, seeing it as a way to develop a diverse workforce at the Lab far beyond the confines of an internship, Workforce Development and Education hopes to expand the program to increase the reach and impact. GEM fellows are vetted, talented, Native American, African-American, and Latinx students that will change the future STEM workforce. If you’re interested in judging this year’s GEM applicants on Nov 20th to the 22nd or for any questions, email Colette Flood: [email protected]