Maren Disney, PNNL
Carolyn Kim, PNNL
Newswise — An innovative model for intern development recently garnered Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) national recognition both for the program and one of this year’s interns. The national early-career recruiting firm WayUp selected PNNL as one of the Top 100 Internship Programs on their 2022 list, after evaluation by a panel of industry expert judges and thousands of public votes.
PNNL is identified as “one of the most diverse, multi-disciplinary national laboratories. Interns embark on an experience unlike anywhere else in the world while also developing a sense of identity and belonging in STEM.”
Every year, more than 1,200 interns participate in internships that provide hands-on experience and research opportunities with PNNL scientists and engineers. The program includes networking activities, workshops and seminars, opportunities to present their research, and career preparation. The model reinforces PNNL’s commitment to championing a diverse and inclusive STEM workforce.
“Developing the future diverse workforce is a daily commitment at PNNL,” said Evangelina Shreeve, Director of the Office of STEM Education. “We’re purposefully creating new partnerships to elevate access and opportunities across this nation for students, particularly focusing on ways to enhance representation for historically underrepresented groups in STEM careers.”
PNNL intern named to top 100 list
In addition to PNNL being named as a Top 100 Internship Program by WayUp, Jonathan Mills, an intern in the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Minority-Serving Institution Partnership Program (MSIPP), was also named to the Top 100 Interns list.
Mills started at PNNL as a PhD intern during the summer of 2019. He connected with recruiters at Alabama A&M University, where he is pursuing a doctoral degree in applied physics. Growing up in Huntsville, Alabama, which is known as “The Rocket City,” due to its connections to advanced space and defense research, he was familiar with national laboratories but was unaware of PNNL. With a rich multi-cultural background, he was curious about MSIPP as a targeted gateway into science, technology, and engineering.
“MSIPP at PNNL has brought to life my dream of working on the latest scientific innovations with like-minded individuals, while well-being and professional growth are both encouraged and enhanced for success,” Mills said.
Upon joining PNNL, Mills’ work focused on projects in data and image fusion and artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) for statistical risk models. He was invited by PNNL’s Robert Brigantic to apply these skills to the Airport Risk Assessment Model, a web-based tool that helps airport security stakeholders prioritize the use of their limited resources based on evolving threats and risk. His contributions focused on integrating AI/ML and real-time data into the risk assessment tool.
“I have worked closely with Jonathan for several years now, and he is clearly one of the most amazing interns in our nation,” said Brigantic. “His powerful skills across diverse technical domains and sponsor missions are unmatched. This along with his dedication, enthusiasm, and professionalism make it my pleasure to have served as his mentor. He is destined for great things!”
Mills is now applying his expertise to Brigantic’s Aviation Security Screening Optimizer for Risk and Throughput project, which is optimizing security screenings not just for security resources but also for passenger flow.
“It’s exciting to see projects go from the creative stage to the created stage. We get to invent ideas and make them into something that’s applied in the real world,” Mills said. “I get immense joy out of the science and technology and seeing it benefit the general public and the nation. It’s very motivating.”
Most recently, he has been applying his skills in AI/ML to aid in identifying objects in real, synthetic, or generated data, “If you have limited real examples of an object, you try to determine whether you can supplement generated data to identify the objects,” Mills said.
Now entering his fourth year with PNNL, Mills returns for the science and technology but also the people.
“I love working with the state-of-the-art technology and seeing it realized as a deployed solution, feeling like I get to make a difference. It is great to work with colleagues who feel the same. PNNL’s management, team leaders, stakeholders, and my fellow interns—everyone has passion for science and it really removes the friction to achieving great things,” Mills said.
Honored to be named among WayUp’s top 100 interns, Mills had only words of encouragement for other prospective students: “PNNL interns are doing amazing things every day to advance science and technology while keeping our country safe. If you are a college student or recent graduate, there are great programs here that can fit your goals. A world of opportunities awaits.”
See the full WayUp Top 100 Intern List here.
About the PNNL internship program
PNNL welcomes hundreds of national security high school, undergraduate, and graduate students annually through a suite of programs, including the DOE’s Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships program and Community College Internships program, National Security Internship Program, the Safeguards Internship Program, and NNSA MSIPP, the Diversity Internship for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and the NNSA Graduate Fellowship Program. Interested students can learn more at the PNNL STEM Internships website.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory draws on its distinguishing strengths in chemistry, Earth sciences, biology and data science to advance scientific knowledge and address challenges in sustainable energy and national security. Founded in 1965, PNNL is operated by Battelle for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science. For more information on PNNL, visit PNNL's News Center. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.