NSF-DOE INTERN Opportunity

The U.S. Department of Energy’s and National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Geothermal INTERN opportunity empowers graduate students to tackle some of the energy landscape's biggest needs and opportunities. Our Geothermal Technologies Office’s (GTO) blog series on the first cohort has explored what drew these students to geothermal energy and what they experienced in their internships.  

Now, these inspiring students are eager to share what they learned and help pave the way for others. Here are their top tips for early career professionals who aspire to join the burgeoning geothermal industry! 

 

1) Build a relevant education background AND seek out internships like this one.  

As Anjali Thota pointed out, pursuing a degree in fields like geology, engineering, or environmental science is a great starting point, but real-world training goes a long way. John Acevedo agreed, as his internship with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) gave him training on modeling tools that built on his classroom learning beyond what the school year allows for. “Places like ORNL are always looking for students who are curious about research and renewable energy,” he shared. “I wish I had known about opportunities such as this during my undergraduate [degree] because it is a great experience, and it teaches you a lot about what to expect in the field while also contributing towards a brighter future.” 

 

2) Recognize that a growing industry means growing opportunities. 

Prabhav Borate was one of the first in the cohort to note that the market for skilled workers in geothermal and other energy sectors is rising quickly. Kaushik Pradhan expanded on the reasons for that growth: “We are at an inflection point where innovations are not only possible but crucial for a sustainable future. The energy landscape is undergoing a profound transformation, and as we move forward, we can expect exponential growth in clean energy technologies.” Santiago Rabade echoed this sentiment:

Santiago Rabade

"My message to students considering a career in the energy efficiency and renewable energy sector is one of encouragement and hope. In particular to Hispanic students: the geothermal sector is rapidly growing, and there is a strong demand for diverse perspectives and talents. Your unique background and experiences can be valuable assets in addressing our energy and environmental challenges.” 

Santiago Rabade 
University of Utah

 

3) Invest in relationships.  

Across the board, the students in the first Geothermal INTERN cohort emphasized the impact of the people they’ve encountered in their career journeys and the importance of developing interpersonal skills. Their collective advice was to seek out people working in geothermal or other clean energy fields and make friends along the way. Justin Tully, who was raised in the United State but has spent most of his career in Mongolia, advised anyone working outside their home context to “learn to make good local relationships. Learn to be more patient outside of your cultural comfort zone. Learn the language.”

 

4) Ask for help.  

Many faculty and industry colleagues want to share their knowledge and help younger professionals succeed – questions are an invitation to connect over shared passions. “I was always a little worried about asking about other people’s previous works and projects,” said Acevedo, “but when I finally overcame that and asked them, they were always so excited to know that their work had meaning to it and that they could help contribute to the success of their peers […] They provide me with so much help and knowledge that I feel like I am growing as a person and in my academics.” Shashwat Maharjan had a similar experience working with his mentors at Geologica Geothermal Group: “They've not only accelerated my learning curve within the field but have also generously welcomed even my most basic inquiries. Thanks to their guidance and support, my passion for the geothermal sector has grown significantly.” 

 

5) Embrace challenges.  

The road to tapping into the full potential of geothermal energy may be rocky (pun intended), but tackling new or tricky issues and overcoming significant obstacles is at its core (again, pun intended) part of the fun. Tully advised newcomers to “have fun and be flexible around difficulties […] without some struggle, there’s no adventure.” Rabade likewise highlighted the adventure and excitement of helping blaze a new trail in the geothermal industry. And Pradhan advised students in energy fields to “stay motivated and persistent even if it begins to get challenging to […] build a career off a path that no one has walked before […] that’s what makes life interesting.” 

 

That’s a wrap on this series! GTO is proud to partner with NSF on supporting these students’ career growth and excited to see how they continue to advance geothermal energy! 

Need a final push to apply for the Geothermal INTERN opportunity, or begin exploring other niches in clean energy? Then listen to Asenath Kwagalakwe, who wants to help produce Uganda’s first geothermal energy and dreams of the day when clean energy will overtake fossil fuels: 

Asenath Kwagalakwe

“Go for it. To achieve a healthier planet for present and future generations, we must transition from fuels to clean, affordable, sustainable, and reliable alternative energy sources. No one person can do it all, but together we can.” 

Asenath Kwagalakwe 
Virginia Tech