Hands-on research key component of DOE-FIU Fellows program

Hands-on research, high-level mentoring and summer internships will give 13 FIU students a leg up when it comes time to find jobs.

They are new inductees of the Department of Energy (DOE)-FIU Fellows program, which integrates FIU course work, DOE field work and student research. The competitive program – approximately 25 percent of students who apply are accepted – prepares minorities to enter the DOE workforce in areas of technical need specific to environmental cleanup.

Seventy-eight undergraduate and graduate students have participated since the program began in 2007 as a partnership between the DOE Office of Environmental Management and FIU’s Applied Research Center. Most participants are engineering majors, but students involved in any STEM program can apply.

“The Applied Research Center counts 20 full-time researchers conducting environmental applied research,” said Leonel Lagos, DOE Fellows program director and DOE-FIU Cooperative Agreement principal investigator at the center. “It’s a perfect combination where the students get to work with our scientists and engineers performing hands-on research while they’re attending FIU and also have the opportunity to perform summer internships at DOE national labs, DOE sites and DOE contractors across the U.S.”

DOE-FIU Fellows Program 2012 Students receive research guidance, mentorship and career advice throughout their fellowships.

“The students are mentored by ARC researchers, FIU professors and scientists at DOE national laboratories, so they have multiple mentors,” said David Roelant, co-principal investigator on the grant.

Since the inception of the program in 2007, DOE Fellows have completed 75 internships across the DOE Complex, working at DOE National Laboratories, DOE sites and DOE Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The Fellows’ research is showcased at the annual in-house DOE Fellows Poster Exhibition & Competition every October and at DOE conferences, including the Waste Management Symposia in Phoenix, AZ. Since 2007, DOE Fellows have presented 69 posters and oral presentations at this conference.

“This hard work has paid off,” said Dr. Lagos. “Our DOE Fellows have performed extremely well at this conference, obtaining first place during the conference’s Student Poster Competition three years in a row.” He noted that the program’s fellows also obtained first place in the professional posters track competing with over 500 professional researchers and scientists from across the world.

Mechanical engineering major and 2012 fellow Francisco Bolaños was excited by the opportunity to better understand his future profession. “I think what initially attracted me to the program was the ability to work with professionals and research scientists in my field,” he said. “It’s a benefit over traditional education where you graduate and you’re expected to find a job, and you don’t even know what a job is like in that field.”

Civil engineering major and 2012 fellow Dania Castillo wanted to build her résumé. “I know that after I graduate, the job field out there is very competitive,” she said. “I know in engineering it might be a little easier [than in other fields], but there is still competition. So what drew me into this is the experience.”

Former DOE-FIU fellow Rosa Elmetti, who graduated in 2008 with a degree in biomedical engineering and a minor in mechanical engineering and is currently completing the FIU online master's in environmental engineering, is just one of the program’s success stories. Her fellowship training helped her land a full-time job in the agency’s Office of Soil & Groundwater Remediation.

“I felt I was given the right tools to go into that environment,” Elmetti said. “I had experience working at the Department of Energy sites, on the Department of Energy issues, so when somebody would read my resume . . . all my undergraduate and graduate career was focused on the DOE mission.”


Pictured: DOE Fellows Class of 2012, Applied Research Center (ARC) staff and DOE guests (from left to right): Back row: Nicole Anderson (graduate student, civil engineering), Valentina Padilla (undergraduate student, environmental engineering), Dania Castillo (undergraduate student, civil engineering), Revathy Venkataraman (graduate student, information technology), Jennifer Arniella (undergraduate student, mechanical engineering), Gabriela Vazquez (undergraduate student, mechanical engineering) · Mariela Silva (graduate student, engineering management); Middle row: John Proni (ARC Executive Director), Leonel E. Lagos (DOE Fellows Program director & principal investigator), Rosa Elmetti (Former DOE Fellow and current U.S. DOE Office of Environmental Management employee), Alice Williams (Associate Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management), Ines Triay (ARC Executive Director), Lee Brady (Former DOE Fellow and current U.S. DOE Office of Environmental Management employee); Front row: Lucas Nascimento (undergraduate student, electrical engineering), Francisco Bolanos (undergraduate student, mechanical engineering), Dayron Chigin (undergraduate student, electrical engineering), Raul Ordonez (undergraduate student, electrical engineering), Joel McGill (graduate student, civil engineering), Robert Lapierre (graduate student, chemistry)