DOE-FIU fellows on solid path to employment

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 in any STEM major can apply.

DOE-FIU fellows induction

From left: Leonel Lagos, DOE-FIU fellows program director; Ines Triay, ARC director; Alice Williams, associate principal deputy assistant secretary of the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management; and Dania Castillo, a newly inducted fellow. Said Williams of FIU’s Applied Research Center: “There is a passion for environmental cleanup that is simply not matched anywhere.”

“The Applied Research Center has 20 full-time researchers conducting environmental applied research,” said Leonel Lagos, director of the fellows program and principal investigator of the DOE-FIU cooperative agreement. “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.”

Students receive research guidance and career advice throughout their fellowships.

“The students are mentored by an FIU professor, by somebody at the Applied Research Center and often by a scientist at a national laboratory, so they have multiple mentors,” said David Roelant, co-principal investigator. “They get hands-on training by going to a DOE site or some other sort of thing, so they have on their résumé hands-on research and they often come back [after internship] and continue their research [at FIU]. We give them hands-on training year round.”

Those research projects frequently are entered as poster exhibits in an annual DOE conference at which FIU students have traditionally shined.

“It highlights them, gets them noticed, and everyone is excited about talking to FIU students and getting them hired,” Roelant said. In addition to the DOE, agency contractors also have an interest in employing FIU graduates.