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NETL Hosts Tour To Grow Local Talent From Smaller Colleges, Universities
Students from local colleges and universities recently toured NETL-Pittsburgh.

Students from local colleges and universities recently toured NETL-Pittsburgh.

NETL recently hosted a contingent of undergraduate students from colleges and universities in western Pennsylvania without large in-house research programs as part of an initiative to expand the talent pool of next-generation researchers with skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“From a workforce development perspective, it was important to bring these students on-site and encourage them to continue in their STEM-related studies so they are prepared to serve as the innovators who will make exciting discoveries for a sustainable energy future,” said NETL’s Scott Crawford, a research chemist who led the tour at NETL-Pittsburgh.

“When they are ready to enter the job market or apply for internships, these local students will remember there’s really a great national lab that focuses on clean energy, addressing climate change and developing innovative technologies right in their back yard,” Crawford said.

The NETL tour was organized with the assistance of Rama Bala, a distinguished physics professor and researcher and president of STEMNetX, a nonprofit that aims to increase the participation of undergraduate students in high-impact research experiences and empower those students to become future leaders in STEM fields.

A Pittsburgh-based organization, STEMNetX also strives to address some of the challenges facing students from underserved communities through equitable representation in undergraduate STEM fields by providing resources, mentors and experiential learning opportunities.

Bala had read a journal article written by Crawford and several colleagues about the Lab’s work in quantum sensing (technology used in subsurface and natural gas infrastructure monitoring and to detect rare earth elements) and asked the NETL researchers to speak at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania.

After we made that connection, inviting students in the STEMNetX program to NETL became the obvious next step,” Crawford said.

Students from Washington & Jefferson, Chatham University in Pittsburgh and the Community College of Allegheny County took part in the tour. The afternoon at NETL included opportunities for the students to see first-hand the exciting research taking place at the Lab.

“This unique outreach event also demonstrated NETL’s commitment to workforce development in STEM, particularly for students at colleges and universities that may not have large in-house research programs, and strengthened existing relationships with local schools while fostering useful connections for hiring researchers in the future,” Crawford said.

Topics discussed during the tour including multiphase computational fluid dynamics modeling, optimizing carbon storage and other subsurface activities through real time data analytics, advanced sensors for energy infrastructure, and low-cost, compact optical sensors for rare earth elements and other critical metals.

NETL is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory that drives innovation and delivers solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. By leveraging its world-class talent and research facilities, NETL is ensuring affordable, abundant, and reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle, enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans.