Alec Holt

From SULI intern to electrical testing engineer


Internship program: SULI
Year: 2018
Undergraduate institution: Weber State University
Major: Electrical Engineering
Host DOE laboratory: Idaho National Laboratory (INL), Idaho Falls, ID
Mentor name: Jake Paul Gentle

What was your research topic during your internship?
I researched suitable conditions for maximum power transmission across power transmission lines. I helped test the program being written to find these conditions and then investigated how different parameters affected the maximum power transmission. I really enjoyed this project because it let me get my feet wet in power design and production, which is ultimately the field I want to end up in within electrical engineering.

What was it like coming to a National Lab for your internship?
I really enjoyed INL and Idaho Falls. The people at INL were friendly and made me feel welcome, whether that was through inviting me to lunch or activities after work. This made the transition easier for me socially.

As far as academically, the engineers and other students I worked with were top-notch. I really enjoyed and was grateful to learn from some very bright engineers and scientists.  I had the opportunity to ask lots of questions and learn so much from people with lots of experience in my chosen field. It helped me grow my knowledge and skillset as an engineer and as a professional. The internship made engineering my full time job for a semester, and taught me what this career would look and feel like.

What do you currently do, and where do you hope your career takes you?
I'm currently working as an Electrical Testing Engineer for a company called ICON Health and Fitness that builds exercise equipment. I brought to the position a lot of experience in testing from my time at INL. In the future, I hope to grow my career in the design side of electrical engineering, whether that be through designing electrical systems for buildings, or contributing to the research and development of the next source of renewable energy.

Think of a time you experienced success during your academic or professional career. What did this success look like?
At my current job, another engineer and I were tasked to develop a better process for thermal testing. We decided to develop an Android app. I had never coded a mobile app, and learning the coding language Kotlin, which is what most Android apps are written in, was an extremely satisfactory experience for me. Completing the app was probably one of the proudest moments of my career. As an electrical engineer, being well rounded and having lots of different skills is very important. In addition, learning another coding language could help me achieve promotions or other job opportunities in the future.

Think of a time you experienced failure during your academic or professional career. How did you feel at the time? How did you deal with the failure and work past it?
About one year into my current (and first!) job, I had some extenuating personal circumstances affect my job performance. It got so bad that for a few weeks I only made it into work once a week, and I know I wasn't pulling my weight and accomplishing anything. Looking back, I would want to be more honest with my employer about what was going on. They were very understanding. I also learned the importance of not giving up. I just stayed diligent about getting to work and trying to do my job, while taking care of myself at home. Eventually my intellectual abilities and skills came back to full capacity and I was able to return to top performance.

Did you make any important personal connections during your internship?
Personal connections for me mean the world, especially my family. My family lives in Ogden, Utah, so when I was at INL, I was able to visit them a few times a month on the weekends. It was fun to be able to share my research experience with them.

I met some very nice people during my time at INL who mean a lot to me. These connections helped me feel like I belonged at INL. The most important connection I made was with another engineer on my team. He was always sharing new ideas, listening to my ideas, and answering my questions. My connection with him gave me hope for what my future as an engineer could look like 15-20 years down the road.

What are your values? How do express your values through your academic or professional career?
Some of my most important values are relationships, honesty, kindness, service, and integrity. At work, I try to get to know my colleagues on more of a personal level instead of seeing them only as someone I can collaborate with on projects. As far as kindness and service, I'm always willing to help people and answer their questions because I remember being in the learning stage of becoming an engineer and I want to pay it forward. I show my integrity by putting in a full day at work every day and going the extra mile to get tasks done on schedule.