Three students from SJC Long Island participated this summer in the 2018 Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) at Brookhaven National Lab (BNL) in Upton, New York.
The internship program — open to college students across the country — kicked off June 4 and concluded Aug. 10. The students presented their research findings during a poster session last Thursday.
“BNL is one of only 10 major research labs in the United States, so it is very prestigious,” said Sister Jane Fritz, assistant professor of mathematics and computer science at SJC Long Island. “The interns gain extraordinary experience working with world famous scientists and researchers. They learn concepts and work with equipment far beyond those of a typical college classroom. For many, this is the beginning of a career path.”
As many as seven St. Joseph’s College students get accepted into this highly competitive internship each year, according to S. Jane. An informal collaboration has existed between St. Joseph’s and BNL for over two decades. In addition to choosing St. Joseph’s students as interns and employing graduates of the College, they have also aided the institution in receiving major grants through writing letters of support.
A Closer Look at SULI
“SULI is a national program sponsored by the Department of Energy and is available at the 17 Department of Energy Labs,” explained Melvyn Morris, special projects manager in BNL’s Office of Educational Programs. “All of the students that are considered have at least a 3.0 GPA and are going into at least their junior year.”
References that speak to the character of the students are very important in students receiving this internship, Morris mentioned.
“Most of the students we have accepted have been based on recommendations from S. Jane and have been in the math and computer area,” he said.
Other students who interned at BNL this summer study at such institutions as Harvard, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, Brown University and Stony Brook University.
Confirming a Career Choice
“This internship was a real eye-opener for me, and I am so glad that I was given this opportunity to work with so many wonderful people,” SJC Long Island senior Jeami Van Weele said.
Van Weele, who transferred to St. Joseph’s last fall from Suffolk Community College, learned about the internship opportunity from S. Jane while taking one of her classes.
“I was responsible for creating a JAVA code that could pull data from BNL’s Evaluated Nuclear Structure Data File (ENSDF) and print it out into the Nuclear Wallet Cards and Homeland Security Booklets produced by BNL. The code I created will be able to be reused each time they need to update the booklets.”
Van Weele, a computer information technology major, presented her research on “A JAVA-Based Approach to Nuclear Structure Data Mining” in Berkner Hall of BNL on Thursday.
“It was a little stressful at first, presenting my poster to people who have Ph.D.’s in the topic that I was discussing,” said the 21-year-old Blue Point, New York, resident. “But everyone was so friendly and seemed genuinely interested in the work that I had done throughout the summer.”
While Van Weele originally went into computer science looking to study game design, she developed an interest in forensic computing and cyber security.
“This internship has really opened my eyes to what it is like to work in this field, and it definitely solidified me remaining in this field and doing work with computers as my career,” she said.
St. Joe’s Shows Support
In addition to S. Jane, several other proud faculty members from St. Joe’s attended Thursday’s poster session, including Victoria Hong, chairperson of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, assistant professor and director of the M.S. program in Forensic Computing; Cheyne Miller, Ph.D., assistant professor of mathematics; and Michelle Bliss, lecturer in computer science.
Salvador Gonzales ’07, educational programs representative in BNL’s Office of Educational Programs, and Thomas Smith ’15, one of the Linux System Administrators for the National Synchrotron Light Source II at BNL, also stopped by to support their fellow Golden Eagles.
Smith himself had interned at BNL for two summers while he was a student at St. Joseph’s College. After graduating in 2015 with a B.S. in Mathematics and Computer Science, he was invited back to BNL to work on a project jointly conducted with RIT. Toward the end of that project, he was offered a full-time position.
“The experience and skills picked up during an internship here are great on a résumé, regardless of where you apply for a job in the future,” Smith said. “Job recruiters contact me continuously, and they are all interested specifically in my experience at the lab. I suppose I got kind of lucky ending up staying, but the internship realistically could have gotten me in the door anywhere; it’s a great program.”
Opening an Opportunity
“Being accepted into this internship opened up different opportunities for me,” said Alyssa Quinn, 21, a Spanish adolescence education major at SJC Long Island. “As a future teacher, I learned about how important safety is to a workplace and what it means to have an emergency action plan.”
Quinn, a senior, plans to pursue her master’s degree at St. Joseph’s after receiving her bachelor’s degree in May 2019. During the internship, she worked with four other interns in the Office of Emergency Management along with Fire-Rescue. They updated building safety information for all of the buildings on site.
“My dream job is to be a bilingual education teacher,” she said. “This internship did not directly influence this career, but it encouraged me to learn about safety, which is very important in schools.”
Quinn’s poster presentation focused on “Analysis and Validation of Building Safety Documents.”
“This internship opened up the opportunity for me to receive a job for next summer in BNL’s Office of Educational Programs as a policy student,” the Ridge, New York, native said. “Next summer, I will be working with this department to create activities for the interns and answer any questions they may have along with several other duties.”
A Stepping Stone
“This BNL internship is often a stepping stone for these students,” S. Jane said. “For example, we will encourage both (mathematics and computer science students) to apply to the MIT Undergraduate Research Conference in November, as well as to the Microsoft Undergraduate Research Competition in March.”
Jorge Diaz Jr., a double major in mathematics and computer science, presented his research on “Mining Metadata Structure to Monitor Data Usage at the National Synchrotron Light Source II.” According to BNL’s website, the “NSLS-II provides the research tools needed to foster new discoveries and create breakthroughs in critical areas such as energy security, environment, and human health.”
“Above all, it makes me very proud to see what they have accomplished and how they have applied the material we have taught them,” S. Jane said.