Scots Science Scholars sponsors summer internship talks – math and computer science

mathinternsScots science Scholars and friends heard seven junior and senior math and computer science majors describe the work they did over the summer.  Besides hearing about the work itself, students received great advice on how to land an internship, and what kinds of skills and characteristics are valued in the workplace.

Senior mathematics and engineering major Sarah potter, senior computer science major Tanner Curren and junior computer science major Evan Ezell all had position related Oak Ridge National laboratories, but in very different groups.

Sarah’s work at the Spallation Neutron Source through Oak Ridge Associated University’s HERE Program was to model, fabricate and assemble a neutron detector.  Sarah had never worked in CAD, but she taught herself in order to be able to do the job. In addition, much of her time was spent communicating her work to others, both in written and spoken form. She credited her physics courses for helping her to understand the work she was doing and she even encouraged students who want to work in science to learn a second language as well.


Evan presents his poster at the end of the summer.

Evan worked with the Toxicology and Hazard Assessment group.  This group helps to assess the risks associated with toxic chemicals in the environment.  While Evan worked on several projects, he talked in detail about a tool that helps assessors determine safe levels and determine the risk from a person’s likely exposure to radon.  Even though  Evan was hired as a programmer, he ended up learning a lot of chemistry in order to be able to code the needed tools.  He was especially grateful that he had already had a database class at Maryville College.  The experience culminated in a poster session where Evan was able to present his work to many of the ORNL scientists.

Tanner Curren continued an MC tradition by being the third computer science major to work in high performance computing at the Joint Institute for Computational Science, where he continued his work from last summer. Tanner help build a framework for parallel computing applications to assist scientists with existing models to do simulations more efficiently.  The group is planning to launch the application this year.  Tanner mentioned his classes in data structures and algorithm analysis as key to helping him complete the work.  The experience has led to strong professional connections for life after MC, including employment and graduate school.

Computer science and math  major Nabil Ahlhauser, and math majors Jordan Thomas,  John Compton and  Grace Puryear, all seniors, got a taste of corporate America. Nabil and Jordan worked at Fortune 500 companies while Johnathan and Grace completed interships at a division of one of the largest insurance companies in the country.


Nabil with coworkers

Nabil worked at IBM’s Innovation Lab, which makes products for IBM to use in-house.  His work included projects for accounts receivable, a customizable template for IBM work groups to use as a training tool, and an application that estimates time on task based on developers’ assessments.  Nabil used a number of technologies, including some that were new to him.  Perhaps the most important lesson he shared was that manager’s value independence very highly and hope that employees will be able to take basic instruction and turn it into what is needed.

John and Grace worked for Great West Casualty.  The internship they completed included opportunities to work in all the divisions of the company.  Interns also received training in business etiquette as well as company culture. Rotating through the divisions got Grace and John both excited about moving into the world of business analytics.  John encouraged students to do their research on a company before interviewing and make sure to build a network and make good connections while you are there.  Grace observed that hard work early in your career, including during your college years can give you an advantage when you start your career.   She encouraged students to find out what their strengths are and play on then rather than focusing too much on weaknesses.

Jordan Thomas worked for a third summer at HCA Healthcare, landing a spot in their insurance department working in health care indemnity.  While there, Jordan worked on many small projects, each taking about one or two days.  She also stressed the importance of independent work:  she would be given a task and expected to complete it on her own.  Her favorite project was working on analyzing the pros and cons of changing vendors.  She even had meetings with top executives of a nationally known financial company.  Like John,  Jordan emphasized the need to make and maintain connections and was even trained in resume writing and Linked In.

This event was a great way to start off the Scots Science Scholars event for the year.  Students  got valuable information on what it is like to work both in a research oriented setting and a corporate setting and great advice on navigating the professional world.  We’re looking forward to hearing from natural sciences students in October and November.







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Visit to Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Written by Kansas Smith, Scots Science Scholar 2016

My fellow Scots Science Scholars and I were privileged enough to visit Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. At nine o’clock this morning we arrived at the visitor’s center and obtained our visitor passes and received a brief overview of what ORNL was and what they are about.

The Scots Science Scholars pose for a group pic at the cost of their eyesight

The Scots Science Scholars pose for a group pic at the cost of their eyesight

ORNL is the largest US Department of Energy science and energy-centered laboratory that supports the DOE’s missions of

  • Scientific Discovery
  • Clean Energy and
  • Scientific Security

We began our tour with the super computers. Upon first seeing these computers, it looked to me as an electrical engineering major like a bunch of control panels for machines. Then the clarity came when the tour guide explained to us what these computers were used for and how they were classified. It all depends on how quick the computer can do a math problem and the speeds of those computers honestly went right over my head.

"Tiny Titan," a simulator of the supercomputer Titan

“Tiny Titan,” a simulator of the supercomputer Titan

We had the opportunity to play with a smaller computer that was a simulation of the larger computers and how they operated. He explained to us that a computer doesn’t know what water is so instead it models the particles and how they move and we were allowed to use an X-box controller to manipulate the particles to look like water moving on the screen. After that we headed to my favorite part of the entire day: the drone room. We were shown different types of drones and informed about their many different uses. The tour guide informed us of all the ways that the drones could be used including the current thing they are working on, a titanium drone that can fly into the center of the wildfires without harm. There was a computer screen in the room that showed real time cyber attacks all over the country. The United States was ranked highest in the amount of cyber attacks that occur per hour through the website Norse.

drone thingAfter the drone room, we took a short car ride over to the High Flux Isotope Reactor. While I enjoyed every part of the tour, this is where I began to get lost. ORNL took neutrons and other radioactive materials and made energy. We got to view a reactor core that produced 85 megawatts of energy, and the thing was only waist high. After this we took another short drive to Spallation Neutron Source, an ORNL user facility. In this facility we got the opportunity to view the way that neutrons are applied to everyday life. 13996176_664037730416858_8468196130887389713_oThe tour guide explained to us how neutrons were measured and the space between atoms was used to measure things and improve products we use every day like phone batteries and looking at the neutrons and how they move and how some of them get trapped. When we first arrived at SNS and the man explained what happened, I was very confused but then he began to explain how the science was used in everyday things and it started to click better.

During the tour I was a little more interested in the wiring of the building than I was the neutrons but I learned a few things about neutrons that I would have never understood in a classroom. On top of this all, I got the opportunity to make my dad super jealous. Over all this was an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life, and something that I would do again. Getting to learn about all the different things that happen under one roof and how just about every STEM major can find a job doing something that you might now necessarily think of when you think of that major opened my eyes up to a lot of opportunities. I enjoyed ORNL and intend to apply for every summer internship program they offer.

Kansas Smith (the author)  and Erik Iverson, one of our tour guides

Kansas Smith (the author) and Erik Iverson, one of our tour guides

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