July 28, 2022

Internships Open Pathways for Student STEM Careers

PNNL internships provide students with valuable opportunities for STEM careers

Ikumi Ellis WDTS SULI Intern

SULI Intern Ikumi Ellis is examining the effects on medical device plastics of sterilization methods that do not require use of radioisotopes. Ellis attends Arizona State University and is majoring in Environmental Chemistry.

(Photo by Andrea Starr | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

With an expected 821,300 new openings for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs over the next 10 years, there is a significant need to develop the future STEM workforce to meet this demand. Each year Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) hosts approximately 1,200 STEM interns and research associates, giving students from around the nation an opportunity to develop their research expertise, gain hands-on experience in their fields of interest, and grow as early career STEM professionals.

Internships play a critical part in developing a student’s career. Nationally, approximately 50 percent of students who complete an internship will participate in a second one and approximately 70 percent of interns are offered employment. Anjelica Bautista, who began as an intern in the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists (WDTS) program, the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI), is one such example. She recently accepted a full-time role as a chemist with PNNL.

I think the coolest part of PNNL is seeing how interdisciplinary all the research is. I was able to make my way into chemistry just fine with my background in neuroscience. In fact, I’m still considering a career in medicine or going for a PhD,“ Anjelica explained.

Interns at PNNL are matched with a dedicated mentor who is a leading expert in their field to provide feedback, support, and training during an internship. For Bautista, she credits her growth and career opportunity to the dedicated mentorship she received at PNNL.

I really owe this opportunity for a full-time role to my current mentors, such as April Carman, who have helped me grow in my career as a young scientist, she said.

PNNL delivers an enhanced model and method for STEM internships that includes intentional professional development, enrichment activities, and networking through a program called The PNNL Gold Experience. The opportunity to meet new colleagues, learn additional skills, and develop professionally creates a distinctive experience for interns at PNNL.

Mentors, managers, coworkers ─ they all want you to get as much out of the internship as possible, even if that means taking time out of your schedule to meet new people, see new things, or try your hand at a new skill rather than working on their project, shared Tanner Saslow, a summer 2022 SULI intern.

PNNL interns shared how their interest in science began with curiosity and interest in the world from a young age. These experiences launched them on a life-trajectory to ask bigger questions and explore answers.

My interest in STEM began when I attended nature camp as a kid and explored the outdoors. Getting my hands dirty was a constant in my childhood and remains so today. My interests diverged from biology/ecology to metallurgy and engineering as I started working with my dad in the woodshop at home, Tanner said.

Similarly, Annie Xu, a summer 2022 SULI intern who was formerly a high-school intern with PNNL, mentioned her fascination beginning with cartoons and entertainment.

When I was a kid, I played a lot of online computer games and watched a lot of cartoons, and I remember thinking how do computers and TVs display images, she said. Ever since then, I was interested in technology, which led me to programming and computer science.

Students who participate in WDTS internships gain the unique opportunity to see how scientific discovery and impact occurs in premier national laboratories. They are also introduced to a network of STEM professionals and pathways for careers around the country at leading research and development organizations. PNNL, as one of the DOE’s 17 national laboratories, is a top employer in eastern Washington and one of the most diverse, multi-disciplinary national laboratories. Learn more about internship opportunities at PNNL at: https://www.pnnl.gov/stem-internships.

Published: July 28, 2022

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