When Oak Ridge High School student Nathan Kidder searched for a summer activity, he had several requirements: learn from experienced scientists, explore advanced technologies and develop long-term professional goals.
A school administrator shared the Next Generation STEM Internship Program (NEXTGENS) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and the rest is history. The NEXTGENS program provides opportunities for rising juniors and seniors from East Tennessee counties to participate in a STEM-related project with scientists and engineers at the lab.
Under the mentorship of Luke Daemen, Ph.D., an instrument scientist in the spectroscopy group, Kidder contributed to a project investigating a compound used in batteries. The compound, LLZO, becomes most efficient when created in the correct form. However, when the compound is developed, it randomly takes one of two forms, an ideal or a less ideal form. Ultimately, the team is interested in understanding the formation patterns and best practices for creating the compound to ensure efficient batteries.
Kidder was surprised to find that the program was fairly hands-on. A typical day involved creating samples, running reactions and examining materials using various machines. He was regularly surrounded by advanced technology at ORNL’s Spallation Neutron Source facility. His favorite part of the experience was interacting with the beam line technology.
“The program allowed me to learn what types of activities I enjoy and what I don’t enjoy,” Kidder said. “Overall, the program will help me find my future path and career and look great on my resume.”
Though he is keeping his academic and professional options open, Kidder plans to pursue undergraduate education and eventually graduate-level studies within a scientific field.
The NEXTGENS program is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy.