Student Researchers Present Findings at Annual Science Meeting

At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) held recently in Washington, DC, a group of 14 promising young student scientists joined the international assembly of scientific experts to present their Department of Energy-related research.

The student presenters participated in 2010 internships through the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship Program (SULI) and the Faculty and Student Teams (FaST) Program sponsored by the DOE Office of Science and The Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists (WDTS).

"This [meeting] is great exposure for young scientists as they make decisions on the next steps of their education and career," said Sam Held, the program coordinator at Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) in Oak Ridge, TN. Thirteen of nearly 500 SULI interns and one FaST student from the 2010 internship cycle were selected to present their science research projects during a student poster session at the AAAS Annual Meeting.

The student posters covered an array of DOE-related science — from Extra Dimensions to Water-Splitting Electrodes to Fundamental Chemistry.

"These undergraduate students represent the Nation's future highly skilled technical workforce," said Bill Valdez, Director of WDTS within DOE's Office of Science.

The student presenters were selected based on their final internship reports, similar to a journal-quality scientific paper, a requirement of many DOE internship programs. "We received excellent nominations from the DOE National Laboratories, and it was difficult to review them and narrow them down to just 14 for the AAAS meeting," said Shannon Dunphy Lazo, the WDTS Program Manager and Editor of the Journal of Undergraduate Research.

Luis Martinez, a senior Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez, conducted research at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on Wind Turbine Modeling for Wind Farm Fluid Dynamics. According to Martinez, "This work allows us to better understand the complex physics behind wind turbine flows. A better understanding of this will help us come up with better tools for designing wind turbine layout configurations and better control algorithms for wind farms."

The internship participants recognize the value of their national lab experiences and have big plans for their future scientific studies. "I appreciate the support and dedication of my mentor who guided me and with whom I worked and supported us throughout the summer," concluded Martinez. Several student researchers, such as Faith Whitehouse, are in graduate school. She is currently studying at the University of Wyoming.

The SULI program has been in effect since the inception of DOE's predecessor agencies. Although the program has gone by several different names, it has supported tens of thousands of undergraduate students with science internships over the past 60 years.

"The internship programs are competitive," said Cynthia White, Program Manager in WDTS that administers the SULI program. Every year, the education departments of the DOE National Laboratories sift through thousands of applications and evaluate the applicant pool based on their academic coursework, recommendations, scientific interests, and compatibility with the research programs at the facilities.

WDTS conducts four internship programs, including SULI, FaST, and the Community College Institute (CCI) Programs, as part of a continuum of opportunities to the Nation's students and teachers/educators of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Interns from each of these programs are eligible to compete for this AAAS activity.

One common thread is clear: these programs are a springboard to careers in science. "The internship programs expose students to work at state-of-the-art laboratories where they work with top scientists in the country" said Dunphy Lazo. "Then the students who are chosen for the AAAS Poster Session also get a glimpse of the larger scientific and STEM communities and cutting-edge science."

To learn more about the DOE internship programs and upcoming application dates, please visit