We at the Nuclear Engineering Division of Argonne National Laboratory listen closely to our students, and we are pleased to share a few student testimonials regarding their experiences as summer interns here at Argonne.
At the end of each summer, we ask our students to fill out a questionnaire in which they tell us about their summer internship experience, features they especially liked, parts they would like to change, etc. We receive very positive feedback about the experience from just about every student; they seem to especially enjoy the opportunity to work directly with technical researchers. Many also find cultural benefits to spending a summer in a national laboratory atmosphere near a major metropolitan area.
Read on and learn about the Argonne experiences of several of our recent students.
Argonne Undergraduate Student Experiences, Summer 2013
Junior, Summer 2013, at University of Southern California, majoring in Mechanical Engineering
“At Argonne, I’m working under Dr. Richard Vilim and Dr. Park, both involved in research relating to nuclear energy modeling and simulation. My project consists of trying to adapt a robotics simulation software to try and simulate a safety and monitoring tool known as Under Sodium Viewing (USV). Basically, there exists a prominent type of nuclear reactor known as a liquid metal fast reactor, which uses liquid metal (almost always sodium), to serve as a coolant for the reactor. However, because the reactor core is submerged in an opaque liquid metal, it becomes impossible to monitor what is going on inside. In comes Under Sodium Viewing, which utilizes ultrasonic scanning to monitor the system through the liquid metal and search for safety concerns such as cracks in the core casing and what not. The idea for USV has been around for roughly 30 years; however, it has recently resurfaced as technology has become available to implement this concept and nuclear reactor safety becomes an even more important issue.
What I love about Argonne is the environment and just love of learning for the sake of learning. When given my project, my supervisor literally said, ‘I have no idea if this is possible, but I want you to see if it is.’ So. Cool. Each week offers a multitude of interesting seminars for us to attend that extend beyond just the Nuclear Engineering division. Argonne is basically a playground for scientists and people interesting in making new discoveries in their field of work.”
Re-printed with permission from the author; read full story at Summer so far at Argonne National Laboratory, posted on the Viterbi Voices Blog (Jun. 22, 2013)
Argonne Graduate Student Experiences, Summer 2011
Graduate Student, Summer 2011, at Ecole Polytechnique, France, majoring in"Energies of the 21st century" (geared towards nuclear engineering)
“I am a 3rd-year student at the Ecole Polytechnique, France, which correspond to a first master year. My graduate program is called "Energies of the 21st century" (Dep. of physics & mechanics) and I chose many courses related to nuclear engineering. Argonne is not very famous among French students but my professor advised me to apply for an internship at the Lab. I also applied to American universities but two National Labs (Argonne and Idaho) answered first and proposed me interesting topics. I chose Argonne because of the research project and the location. The recruitment process at Argonne is easy and efficient. Many French students hesitate to come to the USA for an internship because of financial reasons, but Argonne paid my fly ticket, my VISA and a salary that largely covered my life expenses. My supervisor found a subject well adapted to my competences and expectances and he was available. Of course, Argonne is not a university so you will not have the atmosphere of a university campus, but I enjoyed my cultural experience a lot because I was near Chicago and I am convinced I discovered a more accurate image of the US.
I made many computer simulations and physical analysis, I tried to find documentation, to understand it, I took notes for my report (which is more like a master thesis) and asked questions to my supervisor and a staff member. It was my first professional experience. I strongly recommend Argonne to foreign Science and Engineering students.”
Argonne Undergraduate Student Experiences, Summer 2010
Senior, Spring 2011, at Rice University in Houston TX, majoring in chemical and biomolecular engineering
“I will be a senior next year at Rice University in Houston, Texas. I am a Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering major. However at Argonne, I applied for an internship in the Nuclear Engineering field. There are so many fields of study and only a minimal amount of background experience is needed, so the doors are open to explore any related field to your major, or so I found.
I learned about Argonne’s summer programs from my uncle, who has worked at Argonne for fifteen years. He has always told me how wonderful it is to work here, and highly suggested I come and take a tour and look around. I fell in love with the atmosphere and environment, as well as with the opportunity Argonne had to offer. I was a little nervous before beginning my internship because I had not had any real research experience, or any interaction with the scientific or professional world prior to this internship. I was relieved to find out on my first day when my supervisor informed me that this would not be a problem and they would teach me everything I needed to know!
The major advantage of an internship at Argonne is that you are put right in the middle of breaking ground research. Nothing learned in a classroom can be substituted for a real hands-on experience. Argonne gives you the opportunity to learn what it would be like to be a scientist and to have a one of kind internship.
A typical day consists of checking my email, and then checking with my supervisor to see what specifically I will be doing for the day. Sometimes it is doing literary research, or editing reports, or attending a seminar, or working in the laboratory. There would be a break for lunch, and more of the same activities would continue in the afternoon.My future plans include graduation in the spring from Rice, and then attending graduate school. One day I would love to return to Argonne and pursue a life long career here. My internship at Argonne has helped me to realize that I want to pursue a career in research, and there is no better place to do so than at Argonne National Laboratory.”
Argonne Undergraduate Student Experiences, Summer 2008
Sophomore, Fall 2008, at Iowa State University, majoring in chemical engineering, considering a minor in nuclear engineering
“I was told about Argonne’s summer research aide appointment program by a gentleman who works at Argonne. I applied to the program because it seemed like a fantastic opportunity in which to grow in my understanding of science as well as to expand my knowledge base. The biggest advantages I found to this program are being able to get involved in actual scientific research work, as well as being able to jump right into the program. There really are no disadvantages, other than that I don’t receive any university credit for being a research aide. This was my first opportunity to interact with scientific researchers in a laboratory environment.”
“A typical day for me at Argonne began with checking my e-mail, then visiting with my supervisor to plan what I would do that day. After that, I might work in the lab, do some background reading, or attend a lecture. Following lunch, I would continue these activities in the afternoon, then have a quick talk with my supervisor before leaving about what I had accomplished that day.”
“My plans for the future include graduation from ISU, then going directly to work for a company that will let me work on my master’s degree while working for them. I hope then to continue on to my PhD. I believe that working at Argonne has given me the confidence, as well as the knowledge, to achieve these goals.”
Incoming freshman, Fall 2008, at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, majoring in aeronautical engineering
“I learned about Argonne’s summer programs for undergraduates from my high school physics teachers, from my neighbors, and from a seminar I attended at Argonne in the summer of 2007. I applied for an Argonne summer appointment because I knew that I would be doing something worthwhile with my summer and I would be learning about the field I plan to study (and I’d be making money to help buy all those accursed textbooks!). I found several advantages to the program: having a view of the real world of science and engineering, getting to work in the field I wanted to before completing four or more years of college, and learning new things about subjects I never knew existed. It also gave me my first opportunity to work with scientific professionals. The only real disadvantage is the short (two-month) length of the appointment.”
“My appointment involved assisting with computer network administration and cyber security tasks in the NE Division, so I would begin a typical day by logging in to all the systems I needed and making sure nothing had gone off line (or exploded!) over the previous night. I would then answer phone calls and receive tickets requesting technical support. For each trouble ticket, I would fix the problem remotely, if it were a server problem, or take the van to the site of the problem if the trouble were with the hardware. If a computer needed to be fixed, I would bring it back with me to my office and locate the replacement parts, or place orders for the replacement parts if necessary. I would then repair and deliver what I could. I would also perform small tasks assigned me by my supervisor.”
“My ultimate career goal is to work for a large aeronautics firm, doing engineering work. My experiences at Argonne will help me with this goal by having introduced me to the office lifestyle and giving me experience in how different departments interact with each other in many different ways.”
Incoming freshman, Fall 2008, at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, majoring in molecular and cellular biology
“I became interested in Argonne during the Rube Goldberg competitions, and I applied for a summer internship at Argonne because of my infatuation with everything science. The benefits I found from my internship are too numerous to list them all, but the main ones are the opportunity to communicate daily with real scientists, constant learning and using my own thoughts, and bragging rights with my friends. Prior to my internship, I had never even spoken with a scientist. The main disadvantage for me was that I lived at home and so had a one-hour commute each way every day, but had I wanted to, I could have lived in housing on-site or near Argonne and eliminated the commute.”
“A typical day for me was arriving at Argonne about 8:15 AM, logging in to my computer and answering e-mails, working on documents in Microsoft Word, and go to the laboratory and testing different variables that define the capabilities of the machine I was assigned to work with. Data processing and online research were also part of my day, and I usually managed to throw in a lunch somewhere.”
”My career goals include becoming a doctor, perhaps an anesthesiologist. My experience at Argonne not only exposed me to a field that was new for me, it also provided me with practical experience in what it’s like to work in a technical research area. This experience helped me realize that, for me personally, I should not pursue research as a career option. This in no way means that I didn’t enjoy my time here, or that I disliked the scientists that I worked with. I simply found through participating in a summer research project that research just isn’t a fit for me. This one summer at Argonne may have saved me years of schooling for a career that wouldn’t fit me.”