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    • 2017-09-21 14:05:12
    • Article ID: 681587

    From Science to Finance: SLAC Summer Interns Forge New Paths in STEM

    More than 100 students worked on projects ranging from website development to imaging techniques for X-ray studies, learning new ways to apply their talents.

    • Credit: Dawn Harmer/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

      SSRL interns Sabine Hollatz, left, and Anastasiia Makhniaieva, right, worked on new ways to collect and process data at SLAC’s X-ray synchrotron with their mentor Aina Cohen, center.

    Internships at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have a way of opening surprising doors to the future.

    When Agustin Pacheco, a physics major at the University of California, Berkeley, came on a tour of the Department of Energy laboratory last year, he impressed his tour guide, a SLAC scientist, by asking a lot of thoughtful questions. His inquisitiveness led to a summer internship through the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) Internship Program in the field of electrical engineering, something new he was interested in exploring.

    “I specifically asked for this project because I’m leaning more toward a career in engineering,” Pacheco said. “It’s something I’ve never done before, but I’m getting the right guidance and hands-on experience to smoothly transition.”

    Anastasiia Makhniaieva, a rising sophomore and computer science major at Ohlone College in Fremont, encountered a few surprising ways to apply her field of study during her summer internship at SLAC’s Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Light Source (SSRL).

    “I’ve never been exposed to crystallography, and never really considered anything like this work at the lab,” she said. Makhniaieva worked with her mentor Aina Cohen, a senior staff scientist, to develop and set up a video microscope for ultraviolet imaging of protein crystals at X-ray light sources like SSRL and LCLS.

    “This opportunity has given me a lot of experience and new information about things I might consider in the future,” she said.

    Building Bridges to the Future

    This summer more than 100 interns worked on a wide variety of projects at the lab. Their activities spanned from creating a website for Business Services to designing new technologies for SLAC’s X-ray laser. Some SLAC interns worked as far away as Switzerland, where they participated in particle physics research at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.­

    The students come to the lab each summer through a variety of department-hosted internships and educational outreach programs, including the DOE’s Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships (SULI) program, which provides research experience for undergraduate students exploring careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. Summer internships for high school students started at SLAC in 1969. Today, SLAC is one of 16 participating DOE laboratories in the SULI program, run by the Department’s Office of Science.

    “SULI is SLAC’s longest-standing internship program and offers undergraduates a rigorous but rewarding research experience,” said Enrique Cuellar, student program manager and organizer of SLAC’s SULI internships. “Each intern is required to attend career development workshops and give a presentation on their project at the end of the summer.”

    Other interns come to the lab via the DOE’s Community College Internships program, California Polytechnic State University's STEM Teacher and Researcher, and Stanford's Raising Interest in Science and Engineeringprograms. The LCLS Internship Program, now in its seventh year, hosted more than 40 interns in various fields of science and engineering, as well as science communications and business administration. 

    The professional and academic discoveries that arise through internships benefit students, mentors and the laboratory, according to Eric Shupert, SLAC manager of workforce planning and attraction.

    “For the interns, working next to someone in the top tier of their field can be very impactful,” he said. “But our summer internships also give our scientists a way to share their work, give back to the community and build a strong pipeline of future employees.”

    Hasan DeMirci, a research associate in the Biosciences Division who mentored several students this summer, was impressed by their tenacity.

    “They’re constantly surpassing every milestone and benchmark that I can set for them,” he said. “They are fearless and come here with a fresh perspective and no expectations or limitations.”

    Connecting and Exploring

    Alan Fry, director of the LCLS Laser Science and Technology Division and LCLS Internship Program, emphasizes the opportunity students get to experience what it’s like to work at a national laboratory first-hand and interact with scientists, engineers and other professionals. But another crucial element is the bonds the interns form with each other, he said.

    Ice cream socials, outings and barbecues offered SLAC interns across the various programs opportunities to get to know each other and share experiences and interests.

    They also attended talks and presented at poster sessions at the end of the program where the top posters were recognized with awards. This year interns were invited to SLAC Association for Student Seminars summer lectures and a special one-day event hosted by the Far West Section of the American Physical Society titled “What Do Physicists do?”

    Cuellar, who helps mentor and guide SULI interns and provide group programming and activities, accompanied them on tours of the lab and a trip to Lick Observatory, home of the Great Lick Refractor, at the summit of Mount Hamilton east of San Jose. The group took a private tour of the observatory and peered into the observatory’s famous telescope to view far-off nebulas and stars.

    Achievements and Recognition

    A SLAC internship can also yield impressive results.

    SULI intern Brandon Purcell set up a working demonstration of what he called a “smart home augmented reality control system” that allows people to control their home energy use with a virtual reality-like device. Working with mentors Mayank Malik and Claudio Rivetta in SLAC’s Applied Energy Program, his goal was to build interest among funding agencies and the research community in SLAC’s Grid Integration, Systems and Mobility lab, or GISMo.

    New and returning LCLS interns have published their own papers and co-authored many others. With DeMirci’s help, Yashas Rao led an experiment at SACLA, a facility similar to LCLS in Japan, this past May. Having recently graduated with a degree in biochemistry from Cal Poly, the three-time intern will join the lab as a full-time employee this fall.

    “I never thought I would be working with X-ray crystallography when I started this internship – but here I am three years later, leading an experiment,” he said.

    LCLS intern Katie Fotion worked on applying machine learning to a detector that measures the timing of X-rays at the free electron laser, with some promising results. The project will be extended into the fall semester.

    “Not only does this approach drastically increase compute time, something much required for the launch of the LCLS-II upgrade, but it has also enhanced our overall understanding of the data,” Fotion said. “Simultaneously, we plan to turn these ideas into reality by developing the hardware for rapid analysis of incoming shots at the actual detector. I very much look forward to the opportunity to witness the end-to-end development of an entire system and the impact that it will have on the lab in the future.”

    Sasha Safonova and Valerie Becker were recognized this summer with the annual Ernest Coleman Award, given since 1995 to the SULI participants nominated by fellow interns who demonstrate exemplary scholarship and citizenship.

    Working in the field of astrophysics, Safonova tackled the difficult problem of simulating the pupil of the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument’s (DESI) optical system. Becker analyzed recent experimental data related to high energy density studies of copper and found ways to optimize future experiments.

    “Both awardees were lauded by their mentors and fellow interns for their curiosity, passion for science and leadership abilities,” Cuellar said.

    More information about internships at SLAC can be found on the Careers at SLAC webpage and the LCLS Internship Program webpage.


    SLAC is a multi-program laboratory exploring frontier questions in photon science, astrophysics, particle physics and accelerator research. Located in Menlo Park, California, SLAC is operated by Stanford University for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. To learn more, please visit www.slac.stanford.edu.

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

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    Microbes Eat the Same in Labs and the Desert

    Analyses of natural communities forming soil crusts agree with laboratory studies of isolated microbe-metabolite relationships.

    Scientists Produce 3-D Chemical Maps of Single Bacteria

    Scientists at the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II)--a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility at DOE's Brookhaven National Laboratory--have used ultrabright x-rays to image single bacteria with higher spatial resolution than ever before. Their work, published in Scientific Reports, demonstrates an x-ray imaging technique, called x-ray fluorescence microscopy (XRF), as an effective approach to produce 3-D images of small biological samples.

    Self-Sensing Materials Are Here

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    New supercomputer simulations by climate scientists at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have shown that climate change intensified the amount of rainfall in recent hurricanes such as Katrina, Irma, and Maria by 5 to 10 percent. They further found that if those hurricanes were to occur in a future world that is warmer than present, those storms would have even more rainfall and stronger winds.

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    New design coats molecular components and dramatically improves stability under tough, oxidizing conditions.

    X-Rays Show How Periods of Stress Changed an Ice Age Hyena to the Bone

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    Turning Wood Scraps into Tape

    A new chemical process converts a component of wasted wood pulp and other biomass into high-value pressure-sensitive adhesives.


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    Argonne's Min Si receives early career award from IEEE Computer Society

    Argonne's Min Si wins Award for Excellence for Early Career Researchers in High Performance Computing through the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

    Jefferson Lab Director Appointed to Distinguished Professorship

    Stuart Henderson, director of the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, has been appointed the Governor's Distinguished CEBAF professor at Old Dominion University. The position is supported by the Commonwealth of Virginia and is named for the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility, which is the main research facility located at Jefferson Lab.

    DOE issues call for HPC for Energy Innovation proposals

    The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) High Performance Computing for Energy Innovation (HPC4EI) Initiative today issued its first joint solicitation for the High Performance Computing for Manufacturing Program (HPC4Mfg) and the High Performance Computing for Materials Program (HPC4Mtls).

    DOE funding advances project to turn captured CO2 into key chemicals

    The U.S. Department of Energy has selected Southern Research for an award of up to $1.5 million to advance technology for carbon dioxide utilization.

    Sierra Reaches Higher Altitudes, Takes Number Two Spot on List of Fastest Supercomputers

    Sierra, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's newest supercomputer, rose to second place on the list of the world's fastest computing systems, TOP500 List representatives announced Monday at the International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis conference (SC18) in Dallas.

    Green energy: Wind energy agreement will provide savings, 50 percent of electricity needs for Kansas State University Manhattan campus

    Kansas State University has signed an agreement with Westar Energy to provide approximately 50 percent of the energy needs for the university's main Manhattan campus from a wind farm in Nemaha County and save the university nearly $200,000 annually.

    INCITE grants awarded to 62 computational research projects

    The U.S. Department of Energy announced new projects for 2019 through its Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program.

    Argonne's Raj Kettimuthu Named ACM Distinguished Member

    Argonne computer scientist Raj Kettimuthu recently was named a Distinguished Member of the Association for Computing Machinery for his development of tools to analyze and enhance end-to-end data transfer performance.

    Jefferson Lab-Affiliated Researchers Honored as APS Fellows

    The Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility now has a few more fellows on campus. The American Physical Society, a professional membership society that works on behalf of the physics community, recently announced its list of 2018 fellowships.

    Jefferson Lab Receives DOE Award for Energy Efficient Upgrade

    On Oct. 23, a team from the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility was honored at the 2018 Federal Energy and Water Management Award Ceremony for upgrades made to the lab's data center, ultimately improving its energy efficiency.


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    Microbes Eat the Same in Labs and the Desert

    Analyses of natural communities forming soil crusts agree with laboratory studies of isolated microbe-metabolite relationships.

    Diverse Biofeedstocks Have High Ethanol Yields and Offer Biorefineries Flexibility

    Evidence suggests that biorefineries can accept various feedstocks without negatively impacting the amount of ethanol produced per acre.

    Opening Access to Explore the Synthetic Chemistry of Neptunium

    New, easily prepared starting material opens access to learning more about a difficult-to-control element in nuclear waste.

    Tiny Titanium Barrier Halts Big Problem in Fuel-Producing Solar Cells

    New design coats molecular components and dramatically improves stability under tough, oxidizing conditions.

    Turning Wood Scraps into Tape

    A new chemical process converts a component of wasted wood pulp and other biomass into high-value pressure-sensitive adhesives.

    Very Heavy Elements Deliver More Electrons

    Scientists revise understanding of the limits of bonding for very electron-rich heavy elements.

    Probing Water's "No-Man's Land" Temperature Region

    Measuring the physical properties of water at previously unexplored temperatures offers insights into one of the world's essential liquids.

    Novel Soil Bacteria with Unusual Genes Synthesize Unique Antibiotic Precursors

    A large-scale soil project uncovered genetic information from bacteria with the capacity to make specialized molecules that could lead to new pharmaceuticals.

    Warmer Temperatures Lengthen Growing Season, Increase Plants' Vulnerability to Frost

    Experimental warming treatments show how peatland forests may respond to future environmental change.

    Rising Stars Seek to Learn from the Master: Mother Nature

    A trio of scientists was recognized for their early career successes in uncovering how microbes produce fuel, insights that could change our energy portfolio


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