An avid hiker, kayaker and runner, Amy Donna Bittler has always loved spending time outdoors.
Bittler, the daughter of two engineers, is equally passionate about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
At Harvard University, Bittler is blending those interests as she pursues an undergraduate degree in environmental science and engineering.
Looking to gain real-world experience to complement her studies, Bittler recently participated in the Higher Education Research Experiences (HERE) Program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).
Under the mentorship of Melissa Voss Lapsa, group leader for the Building Envelope & Urban Systems Research group, Bittler contributed to several projects related to Sustainable ORNL, the lab’s campus sustainability initiative.
Among other projects, Bittler investigated the potential for a large-scale solar project on ORNL’s campus, researched current low-speed electric vehicle options for ORNL’s fleet and updated the model used to calculate ORNL’s savings from reduced energy, water and waste.
Bittler’s time at ORNL not only provided her with valuable research experience, but also exposed her to a variety of different areas of science.
“Unrelated to my personal projects, I really enjoyed the opportunity to participate in tours of other ORNL facilities,” she said. “I love learning about new subjects (some of which I hadn’t even really heard of before), and I find the work ORNL is doing in other divisions fascinating.”
Bittler has not yet decided on what she will do after graduation, but she hopes to ultimately pursue a career related to energy and the environment, either for a private company or in research. She is also considering seeking a master’s or doctoral degree in a STEM field.
Bittler encourages other students to explore the opportunities available through the HERE program at ORNL.
“I think it’s a wonderful way to really get a feel for what it’s like at a national lab,” Bittler said. “The people here are amazing … and you learn so much from just being surrounded by the diverse, cutting-edge research going on here.”
The former HERE program was administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy.