Third Annual STEM Event Connects Students to Argonne
For students from underrepresented communities, access to top science internships has not been easy to obtain in the past. To remedy this problem and give some of America’s brightest students the opportunity to learn and discover alongside professional scientists, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory offers “First look at the Argonne.
First offered on an annual basis in 2019First Look is a unique program that connects students from underrepresented groups with scientists to introduce them to science, technology, engineering and math (ROD) internship opportunities. “Many students are unaware that there are various ROD internship opportunities at national laboratories, or how to successfully apply for them,” said Argonne University student program coordinator Rob Schuch. “Through First Look, students get a great overview of our research and undergraduate programs on the Argonne campus and can take their first steps towards ROD internships. More than that, through this opportunity, they discover that National Laboratories are a welcoming and exciting community to be a part of.
“First Look was my first impression of Argonne and I loved it. After First Look, I started applying for internships at Argonne, and I’m really happy with my internship. You learn a lot from other interns, from your mentors, from seminars – you just have to be ready to absorb all that knowledge. — Marco Morales, former research assistant for the physics department
In addition to a virtual tour of the Advanced Photon Source (APS), a user facility of the US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Sciences at Argonne, and guidance on the intern application process, First Look featured a panel of Argonne researchers. Argonne Nanoscience and Technology Division Scientist Maria Chan shared her experience of being discouraged from pursuing ROD as a child. “I was told many times as a child that girls weren’t supposed to do science, so I appreciated the opportunity to pursue ROD,” she said. “Everyone deserves an opportunity to develop their talents and pursue their passions, which is why our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts are very important.
The researchers also pointed out that internships and mentoring are beneficial for national laboratories. “Finding mentors for students is something I greatly value,” said Giselle Sandi, Deputy Director of Argonne’s Chemical Sciences and Engineering Division. “I always say that any investment we put in you is an investment in society and the Lab. We all contribute, at our level, to the scientific mission of Argonne. You are the next generation ROD researchers, and what you learn today will help you better understand where you could take your future career at Argonne and other national laboratories.
During the First Look, Argonne also hosted a “alumni” consisting of three former Argonne interns, including two former First Look participants. “First Look was my first impression of Argonne, and I loved it,” said Marco Morales, who helped develop a self-contained recovery device for the Physics division as a research assistant. “After First Look, I started applying for internships at Argonne, and I’m really happy with my internship. You learn a lot from other interns, from your mentors, from seminars – you just have to be ready to absorb all that knowledge.
Alumni encouraged students to apply for ROD internships and offered key advice. “The will to learn and the passion to ROD will go a long way in your application and in your internship,” said Sneha Nachimuthu, who has previously participated in First Look and completed an undergraduate science lab internship (SULI) program with the Environmental Sciences division. “You are exposed to so much during your internship – both the research and the people – and you can immerse yourself in the research experience. At the end of the internship, you really get closer to the people you are in contact with.
Like the interns on the alumni panel, this year’s First Look students were inspired by the experience. “I learned that it’s okay if you don’t have all the [STEM] skills right now,” said Ilyas Munzir, a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “If you are motivated and eager to learn, you can successfully complete an internship and make an impact in the world.