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NETL Goes Virtual for its 2020 Summer Internships
NETL Morgantown

NETL continues to adapt to current events by taking the Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship (MLEF) summer internship program virtual for the participating students for the first time.

Participants include science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors who will get one-on-one mentorship experiences working with NETL’s world-class scientists and engineers.

Sean Sanguinito, a research scientist at the Lab’s Pittsburgh location who has mentored in the program for years, said that although the Lab’s facilities remain closed, the ability to take the program online has plenty of valuable experiences to offer such as modeling studies, data analysis/interpretation, literature review work, and other computational efforts.

“While participants won’t be on-site, they will still learn about all the different components that are involved in being a research scientist,” he said. “Research does not simply include conducting laboratory experiments. The students will perform literature reviews, analyze existing data, interpret and plot existing data, write up their results, and present their conclusions in a professional manner.”

Sanguinito said there will be plenty of important work for the students that can be performed in a virtual space. These tasks include analyses of scanning electron microscope images of shale samples using specialized imaging software, generating new data sets and developing new methods of image analysis that can be utilized in future studies at NETL. They’ll also have the opportunity to improve their scientific writing skills.

He added that NETL’s hosting of the MLEF through an online format stands as testament to the Lab’s commitment to STEM education and outreach in its communities.

“I continue to be astonished by the resiliency of our staff as the Lab continues to adapt in order to serve our nation which includes direct engagement with promising STEM students,” NETL Director Brian Anderson said. “While current events have prevented us from being ‘hands-on’ in the literal sense, we nonetheless promise a rewarding summer intern experience thanks to our virtual transition and the dedication of our researchers to work one-on-one with these students. We look forward to collaborating with them.”

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy, MLEF kicks off its 25th year with a class of 29 undergraduate and graduate students. The program was named after late Congressman Mickey Leland of Texas, a passionate advocate on many issues who died in a 1989 plane crash while on a mission to Ethiopia.

The MLEF program was created in 1995 to improve opportunities for under-represented students in STEM fields and strengthen a diverse pipeline of future STEM professionals. Having mentored several hundred talented students from across the nation, the program provides participants the unique opportunity to gain direct research experience with fossil energy. Students gain insight into how DOE is working to meet the energy challenges of the future, including policy and regulation, project finance, and strategic performance measures at Office of Fossil Energy Headquarters. This year’s program will conclude in August with an online forum in which the participants present their research findings via streaming.

NETL has hosted students since the program’s inception and traditionally hosts the largest number of fellows across all of DOE.

This year’s interns come from across the nation, representing 26 colleges and universities from 16 states, with two participants from Puerto Rico. The students will make real and lasting contributions to NETL’s mission to ensure the safe and sustainable use of our nation’s fossil energy resources.

DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory develops and commercializes advanced technologies that provide reliable and affordable solutions to America's energy challenges. NETL’s work supports DOE’s mission to advance the national, economic, and energy security of the United States.