Seeing science, technology up close

Seeing science, technology up close

Sometimes, things turn out better than you expect.

Dr. Nate Beres recently accompanied 10 natural science students to Tennessee, where the highlight was a daylong tour and interactions with scientists at the prestigious Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Senior biochem major Dani Blum was impressed with the cutting-edge research she witnessed at Oak Ridge. “It was amazing. To top it off, we all came home and read an article from Oak Ridge detailing how they managed to turn carbon dioxide into ethanol,” she said. “It was wonderful to read it and wonder if we walked by them doing this research!”

Another senior, Ali Bauer, compared the tour to “like being a kid in a candy store.” “Learning about the multiple disciplines being studied and about the high-tech equipment and instrumentation available was really cool. I has made me consider working as a professional scientist in a national lab for a future career.”

The ‘Berg group attended a talk on climate change from the head of the Climate Change Institute that Beres described as “the best talk on the topic that I have ever heard.” It even inspired two environmental students to get more involved in spreading climate awareness.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory supports the U.S. Department of Energy’s mission in four major areas of science and technology: neutrons, computing, materials and nuclear. Students got to see some of these up close when they viewed the lab’s massive supercomputer named Titan, giving them an appreciation for the intersection of science and computer technology. They also got to see Oak Ridge’s graphite reactor, the first sustainable nuclear reactor in the world, built as part of the Manhattan Project.

What the students and I found most impressive is how quickly science can progress when a goal is universally supported. The reactor, along with the chemical development, was built in one year.

The lead instrumental scientist gave a tour of the Spallation Neutron Source and walked students through some of the equations that are used in the facility. Finally, the group saw the High Flux Isotope Reactor, which was in operation at the time of their tour.

The students and their professor agreed that the entire day, along with a later trip to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, was awesome and reinforced the importance of undergraduate internships and other research opportunities.

“I am so thankful for what this trip has shown me as a chemistry major and the various things I can do with a chemistry major,” said junior Rachel Raimondo.

Several students also were impressed with their tour of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where they got to look at labs and meet with the director of admissions and current grad students. “Being able to tour the labs that are used in graduate programs gave excellent insight into what the future may hold for those pursuing graduate degrees,” said James Howard, a sophomore biology and health science major. Bauer, who’s majoring in biology and chemistry, has UTK as one of her top grad schools. That first-hand experience gave her great insight into the life of a grad student.

Also on the trip were Kiera Malone, Rachel Raimondo, Rory Bage, Melanie Cohn, Judy Smith, Caleb Frye and Kevin Scrudders.

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