This summer, the Building Technologies Office is bringing on talented and enterprising students through different fellow and internship programs. In June, the 11 new interns and fellows will contribute their knowledge, experience, and energy to the BTO mission.

In the weeks at BTO, these fellows and interns will focus on key BTO priorities to drive down emissions and improve the energy efficiency of buildings, including technology-to-market strategies, lighting innovations, artificial intelligence (AI), energy justice, and thermal energy storage. With backgrounds in engineering, computer science, environmental science, policy, and more, they will bring their fresh perspectives from academia while gaining valuable experience.

Through the three different internship and fellowship programs outlined below, BTO joins in the Department of Energy’s key objective of driving the creation of clean energy jobs. President Biden has set targets of a net-zero emissions economy by 2050, and the nation will need students like the 11 working with BTO this summer to help achieve this goal.  

National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science Inc. (GEM)

The mission of the National GEM Consortium is to enhance the value of the nation’s human capital by increasing the participation of underrepresented groups at both the master’s and doctoral levels in engineering and science. GEM recruits high-quality underrepresented students looking to pursue master’s and doctoral degrees in applied science and engineering, and matches their specific skills to the specific technical needs of GEM employer members. Each year, GEM identifies and recruits more than 1,000 undergraduate and graduate students, and also working professionals for admission to advanced degree programs at the nation’s top universities.

This is the first year for DOE hosting GEM fellows through BTO. The six fellows that BTO is hosting this summer will be co-mentored by research staff at NREL as well. They are as follows:

Kayla Clanton headshot.

Kayla Clanton – Kayla comes to BTO from Tennessee State University in Nashville, where she recently completed her B.S. in architectural engineering and will be pursuing a M.S. degree at the University of Texas through the GEM program. She will be working on issues related to energy and life-cycle cost modeling for modular pre-fabricated housing.

Michael Thuis headshot.

Michael Thuis – Michael recently completed his B.S. in metallurgical and materials engineering from the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, and will be pursuing his Ph.D. at Northwestern University through the GEM program. He has NREL and Oak Ridge internship experience over the past couple of years, and will be focused on working on projects helping with BTO Technology-to-Market (T2M) strategies.

Eric Allee headshot.

Eric Allee – Eric completed his B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and will be pursuing his Ph.D. through GEM at his alma mater. Eric will use the NREL DC Design Tool and develop a supporting literature review to answer research questions pertinent to the viability and efficiency of distributed DC power in various building types.

Orisa Coombs headshot.

Orisa Coombs – Orisa is completing her B.S. in mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and will pursue her Ph.D. at Stanford University through the GEM Ph.D. fellowship program. She will be conducting research on gaps and opportunities for thermal energy storage, advanced thermal management in building envelopes, and next-gen approaches for retrofitting existing buildings by exploring technologies found outside of the building sector.

Raechel Walker headshot.

Raechel Walker – Raechel will be completing her B.S. in data science this summer at the University of California at San Diego, in La Jolla, California, and will pursue her Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology through the GEM program. She will be primarily focused on assessing bias in AI training data, as well as social justice implications of AI applications related to buildings.

Morgan Harris headshot.

Morgan Harris – Morgan recently completed her B.S. in mechanical engineering at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, and is pursuing her M.S. at the University of California at Davis. She will be assisting in performing building controls portfolio cost analysis and other portfolio needs.

Minority Educational Institution Student Partnership Program (MEISPP)

MEISPP offers talented undergraduate and graduate students summer internship positions with the U.S. Department of Energy and its national laboratories. Positions involve scientific research or a focus on policy, business, and government relations. This summer, the following four students will support BTO:

Luana Benitez headshot.

Luana Benitez – Luana is a University of Miami senior studying ecosystem science and policy with a geospatial technology track concentration. Before joining DOE for the summer, Luana was a volunteer note-taker for the Office of Disability Services at the University of Miami and interned with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. This summer, Luana will be supporting the RBI team in assessing state-funded Qualified Allocation Plans (QAs) for Zero Energy Ready Home program recruitment opportunities in low-income communities, and assisting PNNL in the development of home building and renovation industry guidance for disaster resistance, to be included in the Building America Solution Center. Luana will also develop a literature review on energy justice as it relates to buildings.

John Dimelu headshot.

John Dimelu – John is a Townson University senior studying computer science. Before joining DOE for the summer, John interned with the Howard University SMART Lighting Program, and volunteered with the Humanity Across Borders and the Juliana O. Charity Foundation. This summer, John will be supporting the Emerging Tech program in running the L-Prize competition, designed to catalyze transformative LED lighting innovation, products, and impact. John will also be supporting projects focused on improving the state of diversity, equity, and inclusion in lighting.

Teresa Doley headshot.

Teresa Doley – Teresa is a Montgomery College junior studying environmental science and policy. Before joining DOE for the summer, Teresa interned with City Renewables in Washington, D.C., and was awarded the MC Spirit Service Medallion and the Montgomery College Excellence in Equity Award. This summer, Teresa will be supporting the Commercial Buildings Integration team’s research efforts in electric vehicle charging integration in commercial buildings. Teresa will also be supporting the CBI team in highlighting successful energy-efficient improvements in K-12 schools.

Ciara Darden headshot.

Ciara Darden – Ciara a Johns Hopkins University sophomore studying environmental engineering and computer science. Before joining DOE for the summer, Ciara interned with UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy’s Young Innovators Program where she conducted and presented research regarding the Zika virus and congenital Zika syndrome. This summer, Ciara will be supporting the Emerging Technologies team by evaluating technical challenges and opportunities for achieving energy equity in the building sector. Ciara will also develop a literature review on energy justice as it relates to buildings.

MIT Washington Summer Internship Program

The MIT Washington Program places undergraduates from across MIT in summer internships in many of the country’s most influential offices where some of the most far-reaching decisions about science and technology research, budgeting, regulation, and implementation are made.

Kiara Wahnschafft headshot.

Kiara Wahnschafft – Kiara is an MIT senior studying mechanical engineering and economics. Kiara previously conducted research and policy analysis with the MIT Energy Initiative and the MIT Sloan Climate Pathways Project. She was recently featured in this MIT news spotlight story. Kiara will be supporting two projects this summer. First, she will work with the Advanced Building Construction (ABC) Initiative team to complete a white paper summarizing opportunities for collaboration across the federal government to accelerate ABC market transformation. Second, she will work with the E3 team to synthesize potential strategies for BTO and EERE to accelerate the deployment and heat pumps and clean heating/cooling technologies.