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Argonne Laboratory Director Paul Kearns speaking at First Look@Argonne.
Argonne Laboratory Director Paul Kearns speaking at First Look@Argonne.
Argonne National Laboratory

Editor's note: this article was originally posted on Argonne National Laboratory's website.

Diversity, inclusion and internships with premier researchers were the topics that attracted about 100 undergraduate students during the the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory’s First Look@Argonne: A Minorities in STEM Conference.

This first daylong event on Nov. 22, 2019 was hosted by Argonne and provided STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students an opportunity to explore Argonne facilities, meet researchers and learn about paid summer internships. The students were from 14 colleges and universities that belong to the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program, including the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University, Northwestern University, Moraine Valley Community College, Prairie State University, Benedictine University, Northern Illinois University, and Purdue University.

The students engaged with researchers during panel discussions, question-and-answer sessions and lunch. They also toured Argonne’s facilities, learned how they could pursue their scientific interests at a national lab, met professionals connected to their areas of interest and obtained valuable advice on how to apply and get noticed for the internships.

“The students feel more comfortable in an environment where other people look like them,” said Raelyn Burns, a junior majoring in physics at Jackson State University, who interned last summer at Argonne and returned as a student ambassador to help guide other students.

Students digging deeper into the Argonne science.
Students digging deeper into the Argonne science.
Argonne National Laboratory

“Instead of just having a tour, they were able to talk more and learn more, especially while having lunch with a researcher, which gave them the opportunity to ask questions,” she said.

Caleb Xavier Bugg, a third-year graduate student majoring in industrial engineering and operations research at the University of California at Berkeley, was an undergraduate at Morehouse College in 2017 when he met an Argonne researcher during a conference in Denver. He kept in touch with that researcher, which ultimately led to an internship at Argonne this past year. He is now a student ambassador at Argonne and reinforced the value of networking.

Yaresma Zaval Lina, a senior majoring in mathematics at Northeastern Illinois University, wanted to explore careers. By the end of the day she decided to apply for an internship.

“There was just so much information and knowledge here that I didn’t know about before,” said Lina. ​“It was a unique experience.”

Solomon Sodipe, a sophomore majoring in computer science at Prairie State University, plans to apply for an internship.

“I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and advance my career, that’s why I came today,” Sodipe said. ​“I learned so much more than in the classroom and I believe that can help my career.”

Argonne Lab Director Paul Kearns told the students that while he was a Purdue University graduate student, he organized a field trip to Argonne, where he first learned about the national lab’s capabilities. He didn’t realize that one day he would return to help lead the lab.

“Don’t underestimate what you’ll be doing years from now,” Kearns said.

Argonne hosted 800 students last year, with 600 of them interning over the summer, Kearns said. ​“I am always excited to welcome more,” he added.

Chris Botanga, director of the Center for STEM Education and Research at Chicago State University and Principal Investigator for the Illinois LSAMP program, offered tips on filling out the internship applications.

“You can just see the light bulbs going off with these students because they know what will come next for them,” Botanga said.

Argonne aims to further diversify its workforce and the best way to do that is by encouraging the next generation of scientists and researchers while they are undergraduates, said Meridith Bruozas, manager of Argonne’s Educational Programs and Outreach.

“We hope we gave them an experience today where they see themselves walking the halls of Argonne,” Bruozas said. ​“In the summer, I hope to bump into them around campus and learn about the great STEM experience they are having. Events like ​‘First Look’ provide the inspiration for students to take that first step and fill out the application.”

The First Look@Argonne event was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists.

For more information, see www​.anl​.gov/​e​d​u​c​ation

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s 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, visit https://​ener​gy​.gov/​s​c​ience.