For the first time since 2019, student interns were welcomed to Washington, D.C., for the summer to participate in the Washington Internships for Students of Engineering (WISE) program. Among them were two students sponsored by ANS—Tiara Carrasquillo Pérez and Matt Hageman.
Back in person: “After being forced to cancel the 2020 WISE Program and operating virtually in 2021, I am very pleased that we were able to return to normal operation this summer,” said Alan Levin, ANS Fellow and WISE program coordinator. “I believe that the ‘WISE experience’ for our interns is enhanced significantly by spending the nine weeks of the program in Washington, D.C., learning about and researching technology policy, and being able to meet and work with their fellow interns from around the U.S.”
Carrasquillo Pérez, Hageman, and five interns sponsored by other engineering organizations met collectively and individually with technology and policy leaders throughout the summer as each intern researched and wrote a paper on an engineering public policy topic of their choice. While the interns were required to coordinate the bulk of their own research, Carrasquillo Pérez and Hageman were able to turn to Levin and Gil Brown, the WISE faculty member in residence (FMR), for assistance.
Brown, an ANS Fellow and professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts–Lowell, has guided WISE interns as the FMR three times before, in 1988, 2000, and 2018. Of his experience serving as FMR and being a resource for all seven 2022 WISE interns, Brown said, “It was awesome,” noting that the interns “took advantage of being in D.C. It’s not all work with no play.”
“It’s amazing how stimulating the WISE experience is for all who participate—from the interns to the FMR,” Brown added. “The myriad of D.C. briefings provided by knowledgeable professionals provided great examples of how engineers play a crucial role in developing and implementing important policy. The support Alan Levin and other professional society mentors contribute to the success of the program cannot be overstated.”
The WISE interns met with several ANS members, including Katy Huff of the Department of Energy. Carrasquillo Pérez and Hageman also had the opportunity to meet with ANS Executive Director/CEO Craig Piercy and Director of Policy John Starkey.
A passion for nuclear medicine: Carrasquillo Pérez is ANS’s first WISE intern from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), and she credits the WISE experience with inspiring new career ambitions. This summer, Carrasquillo Pérez researched ways to improve the domestic supply of medical-grade isotopes.
“Currently UPR doesn't have a nuclear engineering or nuclear science major, but this hasn't stopped us from pursuing careers in the nuclear industry,” she said. “I am currently a biology major, but I am looking to transition to a nuclear medicine technician major and graduate by May 2024.”
“This experience has greatly affected my choice in career,” Carrasquillo Pérez said. “I had the opportunity to meet many great people. The one with the most impact for me would be the CEO of a molybdenum-99 production company—Carmen Bigles. As a woman in STEM, in the nuclear industry, as well as a fellow Puerto Rican Latina, her work and knowledge inspired me to research more into nuclear and hopefully pursue a career in this industry.”
While Carrasquillo Pérez joined ANS with a basic understanding of the society’s goals and purpose, “this internship has really taught me what we are all about and how this society's goals are being handled and pursued. It also awakened my newfound passion for science and technology.”
Communicating about waste management: Hageman can draw a direct line between his first knowledge of nuclear energy and his choice of research topic. “I’ve been an advocate for nuclear energy since I first learned of it in high school,” he said. “In many articles I read about energy and the environment, nuclear waste was cited as a disadvantage of nuclear power. The WISE program gave me the opportunity to dive deep into the nuclear waste issue. Nuclear engineers like to say that nuclear waste is a policy issue and not a technical issue. I wanted to learn about how to solve that policy issue and how to communicate effectively about such a charged topic.”
Hageman is a student at Oregon State University, where he is active in the ANS student section and earned a bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering this spring. He is now back on campus with plans to earn his master’s degree by 2024.
All the WISE meetings were “incredible,” Hageman said, adding that since many of the meetings were organized through ANS connections, “the impact of our small community grew my appreciation for ANS.”
Harsh Desai of Zeno Power, an ANS member and former ANS Congressional Fellow, “gave the group great career advice and demonstrated how passion fuels productivity,” Hageman said, while a meeting with Sudip Parikh, the CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, influenced the direction of his research. “Dr. Parikh had great stories about science communication with nontechnical audiences and impressed on me the difference between policy and politics.”
Hageman used what he learned to write his paper—“Radioactive Waste Disposal: Developing Trust”—and found that he enjoyed the task. “I really enjoyed the challenge of communicating technical issues to nontechnical audiences this summer and want to continue that work,” he said.
Looking ahead to 2023: ANS plans to invite two ANS student members to D.C. as WISE interns next year.
“I look forward to 2023 as we build upon the more than 40-year history of WISE, and I encourage our student members—especially those in their junior year—to consider applying for the program. Participation in WISE can be a life-changing experience,” said Levin.
Students can learn more at wise-intern.org and watch for an announcement this fall. Applications will be due by February 1, 2023.