Office of Environmental Management

SRNL Internship Inspires Doctorate Studies

April 10, 2018

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Emily Searles presents a poster of her research conducted as a Savannah River National Laboratory intern at the laboratory’s poster presentation.
Emily Searles presents a poster of her research conducted as a Savannah River National Laboratory intern at the laboratory’s poster presentation.

AIKEN, S.C. – When Emily Searles, a senior at Roanoke College in Virginia, arrived for her summer 2017 internship at EM’s Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL), her main goal was to experience real-world research. By the time she left, she was inspired to take the next step on her career path. 

   “I went into my summer project wishing to better understand what real-world research looked like, to determine if I wished to pursue a career in the field of chemistry,” said Searles. “After my experience at SRNL I knew I wanted to pursue a doctorate in chemistry.” 

   Her internship, through the DOE Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships (SULI), let her work with Dr. Simona Murph, a principal scientist in SRNL’s National Security directorate and the founder of the Group for Innovation and Advancements in Nano-Technology Sciences. Searles created multifunctional iron oxide-gold nanoparticles and used them to detect ultra-low levels of chemical species in environmental samples.

   “SRNL provided an internship experience that fostered an open environment of learning through real-world, hands-on experiences that allowed for a depth in knowledge in a particular project of meaningful science,” she said.

   The research Searles conducted at SRNL was one of three projects selected for Roanoke College’s Enrichment Program in Chemistry lecture series. 

   “It is so gratifying to see that through academic and experimental research at SRNL, our interns are developing the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in their post-internship careers.” Murph said. 

   “Outstanding research mentors like Dr. Murph and the structure of our SULI internships combine to give our interns a valuable competitive edge,” said Natalie Ferguson, program manager for SRNL Workforce Management and lab education director for SULI Internships. 

   After graduation, Searles plans to attend graduate school in chemistry, concentrating on physical chemistry and nanotechnology. She has been accepted into five universities, including Rice University, Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Texas at Austin, University of Tennessee, and University of South Carolina at Columbia. 

   “I hope to find a career in the chemical industry and apply the skills I have learned through internships, my undergraduate studies, and future graduate experiences,” Searles said. 

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