High school student Justin Humphrey knows which academic route he will pursue. In fact, he has already started on his way.
The Midway High School student participates in the Middle College Program through Roane State Community College. The program offers him the opportunity to earn an associate degree while in high school.
To enhance his learning experiences, Humphrey joined the Next Generation STEM Internship Program (NEXTGENS) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The NEXTGENS program allows students from East Tennessee counties to participate in a STEM-related project with scientists and engineers at the lab.
Under the guidance of Rob Gillen, a member of the Cyber and Information Security Research Group, Humphrey studied the behavior of malware. By understanding how malware acts in certain environments, ORNL can better protect its information and processes.
“My favorite part of the program was being able to learn in a very hands-on way,” Humphrey said. “I get to watch someone else do something, ask questions and attempt it myself.”
His mentor and other interns of varying academic levels helped Humphrey adjust to the lab environment and offered their support. Much of his time was spent learning the basics of the coding language Python. Other times, he assisted the group, as needed. For example, he helped assemble a server and create cable routes.
“This is a fun program, and it is very different from other summer opportunities available to high school students,” Humphrey said.
After completing the NEXTGENS program, Humphrey returned to the Middle College Program to complete courses for an associate degree while still in high school. He hopes to move at an accelerated pace and pursue a master’s degree in computer science.
The NEXTGENS program is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy.