Shared by Heather Marsh - 10/12/2016

"Mountain View College (Dallas, TX) students are first community college interns to win award from Los Alamos National Laboratories"

When Mountain View College students Emmanuel Ayorinde and JaMein Mason won an “Award of Recognition” for their work during a summer internship at Los Alamos National Laboratory, they had a good reason to be surprised and elated: they were the first community college students to receive the honor in LANL’s history.

The pair, part of a group of interns from the college who spent the summer at LANL, were chosen among students from the best universities in the country, according to Dr. Stephen Jones, executive dean of the STEM division at Mountain View.

“They were part of the top 10 percent at LANL, and of that 10 percent, they were number one,” said Jones. “I think this (recognition) validates what we’re doing at Mountain View. Not only did the two do well at LANL, they surprised the lab on how prepared they were. They were ready from day one, and each of them made contributions to the lab.”

The two students, who worked on a drone that uses a hammer to tap bridges to test their structural quality, were thrilled about their accomplishment.

Mason, who is majoring in electrical engineering, said, “This is super-surprising! I can’t believe I did this. It was an amazing experience!” He added that he’s planning to transfer to the University of North Texas and eventually earn a master’s degree. “It was really cool to see how our progress paid off. We worked so hard, and we saw how our project worked. It’s inspiring!”

“It’s unbelievable! All I can do is thank God. This will make my mama proud,” Ayorinde exclaimed. He added that he hopes to transfer to a four-year university after he earns his associate degree in mechanical engineering at Mountain View.

Dr. Fernando Moreu, assistant professor of engineering at the University of New Mexico who mentored Ayorinde and Mason, said it was exciting to see the two students win.

“They’re very talented, and they’re very hands-on and engaging,” Moreu said. “They’re not scared to learn new things and, what is even more valuable, they learned the impact of their work.”

Opportunities for learning at a legendary national laboratory

Los Alamos, birthplace of the atomic bomb and home to one of the highest number of doctorates per capita in the country, can be intimidating to many students, but the Mountain View interns were excited about the opportunity to learn from some of the greatest minds in the country.

“I was kind of scared when I came here because other people who come here have doctorates and master’s (degrees), and I had just finished my first year, so it was a little intimidating,” said Ayorinde. “But it was an eye-opening experience to see the world of engineering research, and now I can see how what we do in school actually incorporates into the real world.”

“They didn’t mind we didn’t know anything. They knew that everybody’s here to learn. They taught us and gave us hands-on experience,” Mason stated.

Adrian Mayberry, who is majoring in computer engineering, also went to LANL as an intern this summer. “The people at the lab are there to help you and nurture you to the next level. There’s a lot you do in the classroom, but you really get to see the applications out here in the field,” he said.

“This experience made me want to expand my knowledge, not just in computers but in systems as well,” said Eugene Sparks III, who also completed an internship at the lab. Sparks said he’s transferring to Tarleton State University this fall to study information technology.

Kalen Mason, who graduated from Mountain View in May and who transferred to Texas A&M University to study mechanical engineering this fall, said he hopes to work at LANL in the future. “It was a great learning experience, but they really encourage you to get a master’s, if you want to work here,” he said. “The people at LANL expect a lot, so that drives me. But they’re very supportive and patient.”

History and research at LANL

The interns’ experience at the lab provided a window into the world of scientific research and its importance in national history.

Ian Grey spent his internship at Bradbury Science Museum, LANL’s public facility which displays some of the lab’s work. As a physics major, Grey’s fundamental understanding of the subject helped him convey to the public the kind of research that is conducted at LANL.

“The museum tells the whole story of the lab, and I like explaining how different things connect,” Grey said. “They use so many scientific methods and disciplines, and to see how they all come together to work on a single project is one of the things that I enjoyed.”

“This really is the place where discoveries are made, and it is a really good environment to cultivate that kind of work,” Grey said. “I was able to see things I never thought I would. I got to tour the High Magnetic Field Laboratory, the Nanotechnologies Lab and the Trident Laser Facility.”

Grey said visiting the magnetic lab was one the highlights of his internship. That lab houses one of the strongest, non-destructive magnets in the world, and it is used for high-level energy and superconductor research. “When it’s in operation, the whole building hums and the floor vibrates,” he said. “You don’t hear it, but you feel it in your feet. It’s eerie!”

Grey said that while LANL is best known for the development of the atomic bomb, there’s more to it. “It’s not called the ‘Oppenheimer Museum,’” said Grey, referring to the scientist who is known as one of the “fathers of the atomic bomb.” He added, “And it’s not called the ‘Manhattan Project Museum.’ The work that has continued here reaches many other different fields of science. The atomic bomb was only the beginning.”

For these Mountain View students, their experience at Los Alamos was only the beginning.