On December 10, 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Argonne National Laboratory’s Fall undergraduate program culminated with the 2019 Fall Undergraduate “Learning in the Lobby” Symposium, where students showcased posters in the Building 213 lobby. In their presentations, undergraduate students (including those who recently graduated) shared the details of their exciting research at Argonne this fall.
“I had never done an internship quite like this before,” said Soondos Mulla Osman, a participant in the DOE’s Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships (SULI) program and spring graduate from Xavier University. Though she is often nervous about public speaking, she said, “I feel much more comfortable with presenting my research. I don’t know why exactly, but I’m not that nervous.”
At first, the new science and research skills required for the diverse research projects daunted many of the undergraduates. However, they found ample support through Argonne’s collaborative work environment. Blake Mrozek (who graduated from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in August 2019) found his supervisors to be very knowledgeable and helpful throughout his SULI project. “Anytime I had a question,” he recalled, “I would just go to them, and they’d really guide me in the right direction.” Another SULI student, recent Kalamazoo College graduate Madalyn Seveska, enjoyed the weekly Lunch with a Researcher activities. The experiences built a sense of continuous discovery and warmth between the students and Argonne’s welcoming community. “There’s a good group of people here to talk to and learn from,” SULI intern Annika Dean said.
Students also appreciated the unique, in-depth research Argonne conducts ― something many of them had never experienced before. SULI participant Joaquin Luzio (a junior at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) described Argonne as “a college campus dedicated just to research, which is incredible, especially being surrounded by other people who are passionate about research.” The professional, hands-on focus of the internships allowed the interns to immerse themselves in Argonne’s dynamic work environment and discover firsthand how Argonne advances science fields worldwide. “I always had an affinity for tinkering with stuff,” Blake shared, “and this gave me the chance to apply it to something meaningful.”
“Our undergraduate interns are inspiring,” noted Meridith Bruozas, Argonne’s Manager of Educational Programs and Outreach. “Events like ‘Learning in the Lobby’ provide an opportunity for them to share what they have learned at the Lab. Also, Argonne employees learn about unique and interesting projects happening all over the campus. It is a win-win!” This cohort’s “Learning in the Lobby” hosted 11 students from five divisions, and topics ranged from the material defects in wind turbines to new methodologies for creating nanoparticles.
With their dynamic research experiences at Argonne guiding them, the undergraduates are already preparing to advance to graduate studies and professional STEM careers. Additionally, some plan in the near future to publish papers based on their research. Several students even voiced interest in continuing the work they started at Argonne this summer. “We still have a lot of work to do. I’m very invested, so I’m hoping to come back,” University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign junior Janaki Thangaraj stated about her Student Research Participation (SRP) project. Rory Butler, a recent May 2019 graduate from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, completed his third SRP project at Argonne this fall. He plans to return after grad school not as an intern but rather as an Argonne researcher. “I owe knowing what I want to do with my future to the SRP program,” he said.
Undergraduate internships and other opportunities for college and university students are a key part of the Educational Programs and Outreach’s commitment at Argonne. The internships connect the next generation to Argonne’s rich STEM discoveries and remarkable professional opportunities. As shown at this year’s Fall Undergraduate Symposium, these programs are clearly successful. Nearly every intern Soondos met at Argonne emphasized how grateful they were for the experience, and she can understand the feeling. Whether for SULI, SRP, CCI (Community College Internships), or other undergraduate programs, Soondos concluded, “Argonne is a really, really cool place to be an intern.”
Educational Programs and Outreach uses immersive and engaging programs at Argonne National Laboratory to create unique STEM pathways and opportunities for students throughout their journeys.
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) under the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships (SULI) program.