"What I liked best about working at the lab was being able to work with and talk to people who are so clearly passionate about what they do," says Livermore High School student Ella King, one of 12 students who participated in an intensive four-week internship program at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. "It was incredible to see that every single scientist I had a discussion with was excited to come to work every day and loved what they did."
This past summer marked the second year for the lab's high school internship program where students were given the opportunity to collaborate on a scientific research team, tour a variety of LLNL facilities, and present their work at the Laboratory's annual poster symposium with summer interns from colleges and universities worldwide.
The program was first conceived last year by Terri DeLima, supervisor/operations manager for the Center of Micro/Nanotechnology & Bioengineering in the Materials Engineering Division of the Engineering Directorate. DeLima, upon receiving buy-in from her management, worked with others in Engineering and the Strategic Human Resources Department to explore the option of providing high school students, not just college students, the opportunity to participate in a four-week structured internship.
After many months of planning, coordinating, and seeking approvals, members of the Lab team, in partnership with the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District and the Livermore Lab Foundation, started the high school internship program to expose students to STEM careers through hands-on science and engineering projects under the guidance of Laboratory staff mentors that could potentially make a difference in their lives.
This year, 12 high school incoming seniors from three high schools were accepted into the program, based on recommendations from their teachers and a rigorous application process.
Granada High School students included Maximiliano Gomez, Olivia Sears, Kayla Galo, and Juan Hernandez. Del Valle High School students included Colby Newton, Sergio Escamilla, Cristian Sanchez, and Britney Sandoval. Livermore High School students included Ella King, Enrique Sanchez-Guerra, Avni Vachani, and Younus Hamid.
The lead LLNL mentors who provided direction and oversight included Stephanie Brink, Brian Giera, Kathleen Shoga, Clint Frye, Amit Samanta, and Allison Yorita.
The students learned a lot during the four week program. King interned within the Physics and Life Sciences Directorate and studied the simulation of properties of matter. She partnered with Gomez and Newton.
"The most important thing I learned was how much collaboration there is in a lab setting, or any professional work environment for that matter," King says. "No one worked alone, no matter how advanced or simplistic the subject matter. It was clear why we were put into groups, because that's exactly how it works in the real world."
As an independent 501C3 nonprofit organization, the Livermore Lab Foundation is dedicated to advancing fundamental knowledge, creating transformative technologies, and enhancing human health, safety, and quality of life for current and future generations. A primary focus of the foundation is to support STEM outreach and education initiatives (aligned with LLNL educational and science priorities) to help open the door to the future generation of scientists and engineers.
"We provide a pathway for philanthropic contributions to support scientific education, research, and innovation here at the Laboratory," says Dona Crawford, Livermore Lab Foundation director. "These budding scientists have worked hard on their technical projects and have learned about the Laboratory and the role science plays in the world. They also worked hard on their written and oral presentation skills, something that will serve them well no matter what they do in life. I want to express my personal thanks and compliments to these students and to their families and their educators for supporting them and preparing them so well."
The program concluded at the end of the summer with a recognition ceremony honoring the students and the LLNL supervisors and staff who dedicated their time and support to this year's program, including Javier Alvarado, Louann Arredondo, Emily Brannan, Brianna Centeno, DeLima, Darby Destefano, Marcey Kelly, John Klepeis, Jamie Lewis, Susan Lowder, Monica Moya, John Rodriguez, and Melanee Scarborough. At the ceremony, the Foundation provided each of the students with a monetary scholarship for their educational pursuits.
Members of the community shared in the celebration and attended to show their support, including Livermore Mayor John Marchand and Kelly Bowers, superintendent for the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District, both of whom provided remarks during the ceremony.
"The students inspire me," DeLima said. "I enjoy watching them get excited, inspired, and show all their hard work in their posters. It is a joy to see them beaming with pride, especially the ones who lack confidence or have had a hard life. At the end of the program, they bloom and can see the possibilities for their future. Last year's students went on to show their posters in science fairs and last we heard, are going to college."
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