Interns and WD&E staff gathered virtually for the Summer 2022 Intern Poster Session.
On August 3, Workforce Development & Education hosted their largest virtual poster session yet! Over 270 attendees – including mentors, interns, friends, and family – tuned into the 2022 Summer Poster Session. WDTS Director Colette Flood started the session by acknowledging all the interns’ and mentors’ hard work over the nine-week term. “Thanks to all of you who were flexible and really leaned into the process as well,” she said. She praised mentors for their commitment and going into their “mentor-tool kit” for creative solutions that addressed the challenges of working in a hybrid environment.”It really takes a community to make all this work,” Flood told the audience, “so thanks to all of you.”
For many interns, their summer internship provided them with their first experiences working in a completely new field. Rahim Kamara worked with his mentor on creating several computer models of how ice will melt in the Antarctic. Kamara and his mentor used these models to learn which mathematical equations best predicted the rise of global sea levels. This was Kamara’s first time working with computer models and he really enjoyed it. “I have some experience in computer programming, but I didn’t go to school for computer programming,” remarked Kamara, a senior at the University of Maryland and a Science Undergraduate Laboratory (SULI) intern. For this internship, he learned CC++, as well as other programming languages.
Kacy Mendoza, a senior at San Jose State University, spent her summer learning about nuclear science. As part of the GREAT-NS program, Mendoza is part of a two-year long program that trains interns in the nuclear industry. During the internship, LBNL staff and industry experts would deliver lectures to the students on many different topics in nuclear science.” This was Kacy’s first time working on a nuclear energy project and she was thrilled by everything that she learned. “It sounds very daunting,” Mendoza enthusiastically explained, “but [the staff] are so dedicated to teaching you along the way. And they don’t expect you to know everything – they’re absolutely there to help you.”
Andrew Lindburg, a Community College Internship (CCI) intern, was also working on research for the very first time. Over the term, Andrew worked with his mentor to build an easily recyclable lithium battery. “I got very lucky,” Lindburg said, “because Dr. Fang was so supportive of me and super knowledgeable about this area of research.” Dr. Chen Fang has been mentoring interns since he was a doctoral student. Working with interns, Fang observes, is also a learning experience for the mentor; both mentor and mentee learn a great deal about their own scientific abilities. During their collaboration, Lindburg produced the binding agent that was put inside each lithium battery cell. Fang, then, assembled fuel cells inside of a glovebox; Lindburg stood directly beside him and watched. “I explained each step to him,” said Fang, “so if he goes into research as a graduate student, he [will] understand what’s going on.”
All of the interns emphasized just how important it had been for them to have access to this direct research experience. Rey Mendoza, a Visiting Faculty Program Student intern from Swarthmore College, was working with his team to build a computer algorithm that could predict and construct 2D xray models of images based on previous data sets. He had several different roles on the team. His careful modifications allowed the model to be able to work with real data.
These firsthand experiences have greatly helped this cohort of summer interns imagine themselves in STEM careers. Many interns are already planning where they might go next. Kacy Mendoza said, “ I 100% want to pursue nuclear science. When I apply to graduate school, I’m going to look for grad schools that have nuclear science programs.” Similarly, CCI intern Cleo Lepart said that, after doing her internship, she’s determined to go to graduate school. She never thought of herself as an astronomy person, but has discovered that she has a passion for light and its analysis. “I never thought I’d end up here,” commented Lepart, “But I do enjoy coding and that’s a really helpful thing in physics!”
Many interns expressed that their internships helped them feel like they were part of something bigger. After researching the Antarctic, Kamara said that he was inspired to visit the continent and dive into its waters. “This experience has been amazing to me and life-changing,” Kamara concluded, “I see computer sciences as a future.” Lindburg said that he’d be very interested in continuing to do research on recyclable batteries. “The work that we’re doing is going to have a direct impact on our industry and our ability to tackle climate change and build sustainable infrastructure,” he said, “It makes me proud to do this type of project.”
CCI, VFP, and SULI are Department of Energy-funded national programs and are hosted by all the national laboratories. The UnderGraduate Research Educational Academic Traineeships in Nuclear Science (GREAT-NS) is a paid undergraduate internship program taking place at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), San Jose State University (SJSU), the University of California, Merced (UCM) and the University of California, Riverside (UCR).