February 28, 2023

UTEP Student Explores a Career in Research at PNNL

Diving deep into materials science research and new collaborations

Cesar Moriel, a student from the University of Texas at El Paso, stands with his arms crossed, smiling, and wearing a hard hat.

Moriel will be interning at PNNL through the Energy and Environment Diversity Internship Program (EEDIP), a paid 10–12 week research internship for students who are traditionally underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers.

(Photo courtesy of Cesar Moriel)

When Cesar Moriel watches videos, it’s not to watch streaming content, but instead he geeks out over the mechanics and physics of cars and other machines.

“My dad jokes around that I am not normal. A normal guy would be outside playing basketball or doing something fun, but instead I am inside watching stress videos,” said Moriel. “But I love this stuff.”

Moriel is a student in in the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), the country's leading Hispanic-serving institution. Although he was born and raised in Texas, he went to elementary and middle school a mere 20 minutes away in Mexico. His story resembles that of many of his peers in El Paso.

This summer, he’ll be joining hundreds of other students in Richland to intern at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

The internship was made possible through a partnership between PNNL and UTEP, which signed a memorandum of agreement last fall with a goal of creating new research opportunities for university faculty members, students, and national laboratory staff and to create a talent pipeline between the two institutions.

“This opportunity is great from a personal and professional aspect, it is always good to learn from the best, and PNNL is one of the top laboratories for material science research,” said Moriel.

At UTEP, Moriel works under the mentorship of Armanj Hasanyan studying composite materials and dynamics of aerospace structures. Hasanyan encouraged Moriel to apply for PNNL’s Energy and Environment Diversity Internship Program (EEDIP), which provides a paid 10–12 week research internship for students who are traditionally underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers.

During his internship he’ll be working with PNNL materials scientists Kevin Simmons and Yao Qiao, studying filament winding of carbon fibers with different resin systems for high-pressure hydrogen storage systems, which is a relatively new area for Moriel, but one that he is excited to explore.

“Cesar is one of the most motivated students I have had the pleasure to mentor,” said Hasanyan. “Cesar’s internship at PNNL offers him the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in manufacturing and testing of composite materials, while addressing critical research challenges.”

Moriel is palpably excited for what the internship means for the start of his career, which experienced a shift early on when he decided to forego studying biomedical engineering out of state in order to stay close to his father, who became sick just as he was starting college.

Instead, Moriel decided to study mechanical engineering at UTEP with the intention of returning to biomedical engineering later on. However, he ended up absolutely loving mechanical engineering after taking a class in statics and dynamics.

“That’s when I realized mechanical engineering is what I like to do,” said Moriel.

His first taste of scientific research came in 2021 through a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) internship sponsored by the National Science Foundation at the Plasma Power Propulsion Laboratory in the University of Minnesota.

“I hadn’t expected research to be this fun,” said Moriel. When he returned to UTEP he started working in the UTEP Aerospace Center where his research focused on nanosatellites. Just last year, he interned for the Sandia National Laboratories working on thermal energy storage.

Moriel also hopes that his internship at PNNL will foster greater collaboration between PNNL and UTEP, which boasts robust three-dimensional (3-D) and additive manufacturing capabilities.

After completing his undergraduate degree, Moriel plans to pursue a master’s or PhD in mechanical engineering or materials science.

“We look forward to Cesar coming,” said Simmons. “Cesar is considering composites as part of his grad school work, so we hope to show him how great material science is as a career.”

About Student Opportunities at PNNL

PNNL welcomes hundreds of high school, undergraduate, and graduate students annually through a suite of programs, to develop their research skills, to receive mentoring from leading experts, and to grow STEM career opportunities. Interested students can learn more on the PNNL STEM Internships website.

Published: February 28, 2023