Over 100 INL interns showcase research projects at expo
IDAHO FALLS — From categories like the world’s nuclear energy future to securing and modernizing critical infrastructure, over 100 Idaho National Laboratory interns presented research projects at an intern expo Thursday afternoon.
“This is where the interns present the work that they’ve been doing all summer working with their mentors in various fields of a scientific endeavor,” Associate Lab Director for National and Homeland Security S&T Zachary Tudor says.
Students presented awards in different expo categories: World’s nuclear energy future, enabling clean energy development, and enabling INL businesses and support operations. Interns also received awards for best digital/graphic entry, best technical presentation and mentor of the year, which is given to an INL employee.
Pierre-Clement Simon placed first in both the informational graphic and technical presentation categories. His research included studying a vital safety feature on a nuclear reactor called cladding. Simon says cladding is inside the reactor pressure vessel that prevents the release of nuclear materials.
“We want to make sure that this cladding doesn’t break,” Simon says.
He says he’s been able to grow in his field thanks to his mentor, Andrea Jokisaari, and his opportunity to intern at the INL.
“I have a background in applied mathematics. I came to the US (from France) three years ago to start a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering and modeling of nuclear materials at Penn State University,” Simon says. “I did an internship at INL this summer and did one last summer and I loved it so I came back.”
Jokisaari, who works as a computational scientist and was runner-up for mentor of the year, says she is flexible with her students but teaches them to be accountable for driving their projects forward.
“The internship programs give the students an opportunity to do their research in a new environment. They get to actually work in a national lab,” Jokisaari says. “They get to work with national lab scientists, not just in their own academic setting, but now they get to broaden their network.”
Jokisaari says it’s been a pleasure to work with the students who come from 97 institutions including 37 international interns from 18 countries. The INL hosted 360 interns who are hired for the summer as full-time employees.
“They’re very passionate about their work,” Tudor says. “They are putting in extra hours to make sure they get that great result. It’s really great to see the dedication and the passion that the interns have.”