JUMP into STEM Ignites Transformative NREL Internships

The JUMP into STEM program provides a conduit for mentorship, pushing mentors to consider fresh perspectives and fostering meaningful collaboration.


JUMP into STEM Ignites Transformative NREL Internships

Amidst a backdrop of growing concern for sustainable energy solutions, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has pioneered a program that not only advances research but also transforms career aspirations. JUMP into STEM, a competition designed to bridge academia and practical applications, has provided a select group of students with enlightening summer internships at NREL, setting them on paths they never envisioned.

For Zackery Trahan, a master’s student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and a director at an architecture firm, his time interning at NREL has unearthed newfound career prospects. Trahan’s realization that his architectural studies could profoundly impact sustainable research marked a turning point: “It gives a different sense of fulfillment compared to being at a firm.”

Joining him are fellow JUMP into STEM winners Andrew Fix from Purdue University, and Julia Ehlers and Danika Ratnapradipa from the University of Nebraska, Omaha. Their journeys at NREL’s Buildings team have not only deepened their research acumen but also unveiled the pivotal role that buildings research plays in their career trajectories.

Julia Ehlers, a rising junior at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, highlights how her internship has shifted her perspective on research and sustainability. Her work focused on enhancing household electrification accessibility through innovative building envelope upgrades, reflecting NREL’s commitment to practical solutions.

Andrew Fix, a doctoral candidate from Purdue University, hones in on energy efficiency in air-conditioning units, exploring the possibilities of liquid desiccant fluids. His profound realization underscores the significance of his research: “Ten percent of all electricity globally is spent on cooling and ventilating buildings… It’s a critical field that needs to be improved rapidly.”

Danika Ratnapradipa, another rising junior from the University of Nebraska, Omaha, delved into heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) research. Her involvement in NREL’s Residential Buildings Solutions and Scaling Group unveiled the complexity of implementation, reinforcing the notion that impactful solutions require meticulous planning.

Zackery Trahan’s work on streamlining retrofits for multifamily housing reveals the potential of collaboration between industry and research. His effort to create 3D scans of retrofitting-needy buildings offers an exciting alternative for builders and contractors.

Mentors at NREL have also noted the profound impact of these internships, emphasizing the reciprocal nature of learning and teaching. The JUMP into STEM program provides a conduit for mentorship, pushing mentors to consider fresh perspectives and fostering meaningful collaboration.

As the summer internships draw to a close, both interns and mentors reflect on the transformative journey that has reshaped perspectives and ignited new career pathways. JUMP into STEM has not only enriched these students’ academic journeys but also underscored NREL‘s commitment to propelling sustainable energy research forward.

With the sixth annual JUMP into STEM competition now underway, the legacy continues. As this year’s cohort prepares to forge their paths, the convergence of academia and practical research promises to fuel innovation, redefine career aspirations, and ultimately contribute to a sustainable future.