Choosing a career path can be a daunting task for a recent university graduate.
For Taylor Frye, who earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental and sustainable studies from Tennessee Technological University, an internship at Oak Ridge National Laboratory was an obvious choice.
“I was eager for an experience that would push me outside of my comfort zone and help me find the career path that would fit my educational background and personal interests,” Frye said.
In 2016, Frye joined a team within the Environmental Protection Services Division as a Higher Education Research Experiences (HERE) program participant. Less than a year later, he was hired as a full-time water compliance specialist with the same team.
With guidance from Wes Goddard of the Water Quality Protection Team, Frye contributed to projects related to data management, geospatial application of field data and modeling to investigate sources of aquatic toxicity and heavy metals concentrations.
The purpose of the research was to identify real and potential stressors to water quality and biological communities within the White Oak Creek Watershed in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and to develop a better understanding of ORNL’s land uses.
“I gained a better grasp of how fluid a project can become, as we adapt to best meet unforeseen adversity,” Frye said. “It is important to keep in mind that you may not find the exact answer you thought you were looking for, but the real value can reside in what is learned from the journey.”
“Taking an internship in a large federal research facility will give you the opportunity to build a strong base for your professional and scientific career and prepare you for the next phase of your journey. If you want to learn what truly inspires you, pursue a STEM-focused internship at a federal research facility.”
The journey led to Frye applying for a permanent position on the team. Since becoming a staff member, Frye has continued to broaden his expertise and knowledge. He has attended conferences, received Clean Water Act Manager training and taken on additional responsibilities to benefit his group.
“I have the amazing opportunity to split my time between office, field and laboratory settings based on ever-changing investigative and compliance related projects,” Frye said.
Frye’s participation in the HERE program determined his subsequent career path, and he encourages recent graduates to explore similar opportunities.
“Taking an internship in a large federal research facility will give you the opportunity to build a strong base for your professional and scientific career and prepare you for the next phase of your journey,” Frye said. “If you want to learn what truly inspires you, pursue a STEM-focused internship at a federal research facility.”
The HERE program is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute of Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy.