Three students who have completed their participation in the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships (SULI) Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships Program at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory were accepted into the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). Their achievements highlight the important role Argonne plays in students’ continued engagement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) research.
“Argonne provides supplemental knowledge outside of formal education at a university, which helps students grow professionally,” said Alexander Heifetz, a principal electrical engineer at the lab who has mentored all three of the fellowship recipients. “In turn, Argonne benefits from the energy and enthusiasm of students contributing to research projects, while cultivating a new workforce for DOE missions.”
“This fellowship will be instrumental for me pursuing my Ph.D.; I would have felt less secure continuing on to such a high degree of education without it. It feels like everything I’ve done has been one stepping stone to the next. All my steps and accomplishments, from my internship with Argonne to meeting the Secretary of Energy, has culminated in applying to and receiving this fellowship.” — Alexandra Akins
Mentors such as Heifetz encourage their interns to apply for prestigious fellowships and grants such as the NSF GRFP. The NSF GRFP expands the STEM participation of underrepresented groups by funding students’ graduate studies, but they must first pass a rigorous, national competition.
“I was very excited to continue research and grad school with this [fellowship],” said Gabrielle Carrel, currently studying at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “The freedom in research topic is really appealing to me; it’s great to be able to choose what you want to research without the confines of a specific grant.”
Students attributed their success with the fellowship in part to the critical research and communication skills they developed during their internships at Argonne.
“In applying for the fellowship, you needed to describe what you planned to accomplish,” said Alexandra Akins, who will finish her undergraduate degree this year and begin a Ph.D. at North Carolina State University. “By working at Argonne, I really got a sense of what I would like to accomplish in three years, and different strategies and theories that I would like to implement with my research.”
Beyond preparing the students for the rigorous challenges of the fellowship program, Argonne’s professional STEM research environment has also helped them take their STEM pathways in new directions. For instance, the students have published professional papers in scientific journals, and they have new insights on where they want to take their careers.
“Seeing work that I had done in a journal was exciting, and made me feel like a real physicist for the first time,” said Victoria Ankel, majoring in physics at the University of Chicago. After she finishes graduate school, she plans to apply for a postdoc, continue doing research in academia, and see how far it takes her. “This was the first time I was able to do research in a professional setting, and it’s thanks to it that I discovered I really love this kind of research.”
“This fellowship will be instrumental for me pursuing my Ph.D.; I would have felt less secure continuing on to such a high degree of education without it,” said Akins. “It feels like everything I’ve done has been one stepping stone to the next. All my steps and accomplishments, from my internship with Argonne to meeting the Secretary of Energy, has culminated in applying to and receiving this fellowship.”
This work was supported in part by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists (WDTS); and the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.