Argonne Lab Showcases Science Careers
Scientists at the Argonne National Labratory have helped develop drugs that fight HIV, perfect jet engines, analyze data for national security, develop new materials for industry and even design the fuel injector for the new high-efficiency Chevy Cruze.
The lab’s enormous Advanced Photon Source—one of five such facilities in the country—is used for everything from structural biology to magnetic materials, and more than 3,500 visiting scientists and engineers from universities, private labs and corporations partnered with the lab last year.
In other words, Argonne was the perfect place to visit for the annual “field trip” for the Smart Communities’ Digital Youth Summer Jobs program. The eight-week DYSJ program offers 61 students in the five Smart Communities a chance to explore technology career options and gain meaningful work experience in technology-related internships.
Just like the Illinois Institue of Technology, the site of last year’s trip, Argonne provides the teens with an example of the wide array of options for a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
“We saw a lot of applied science today, and I think the students liked that they heard about options that are out there if they stick with their studies,” said Dionne Baux, the program officer for Smart Communities at LISC, as the busses loaded up for the drive back to Chicago. “These are students who do well in science and math, and have an interest in technology. But in their everyday life, they might not see a route to that kind of job someday.”
Funded for two years through the federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, DYSJ gives its participants guidance on preparing for college and career, plus a real-world glimpse into what that career could be while working with nonprofits and businesses in their neighborhood and beyond.
“This is great. It’s so interesting,” said Linda Wu (right). As a junior at Whitney Young High School last year, Wu learned about Argonne’s research capabilities in her physics class, but she said that the trip to the laboratory left her surprised about how many different kinds of science are done at the facility.
“It’s a great opportunity to see what they really do here at the lab,” she said after the tour got a backstage look at the computer control room and researchers at work setting up a measurement at the Advanced Photon Source.
Pilsen’s Eduardo Zaragoza and Lizeth Collazo (left) might be going different places in their careers, but they know that technology will play a part in both of their jobs.
Collazo is taking classes in web design and development at DeVry University, and she says her DYSJ internship this summer doing marketing with social media for The Ressurection Project has been very useful. “I like the idea of seeing these different ways of using computers for business,” she said.
Zaragoza spent his summer with DYSJ on a team creating a new mural on 18th Street, Pilsen’s main commercial corridor, using graphic art programs to design the image and to transfer it to the side of a building. “I’m thinking about architecture for a career maybe,” said the senior at Juraez High School. “I like the mix of art and math.”
Georgia Davenport (right) has done some figure skating, a fact that came in handy during an experiment with superconductors. Dr. Dean Ettinger showed the group how using frozen liquid nitrogen to drop the temperature of the material below 297 degrees Fahrenheit created a magnetic field. “How can the molecules have motion without moving?” he asked—and used Davenport’s figure skating as a hint (they spin).
A freshman at Lincoln Park High School, Davenport isn’t sure science is where her heart lies after graduation. But she watched closely (and took a picture on her phone) as Ettinger showed how the frozen superconductor made the magnet seemingly dance in the air.
She also listened intently as Ettinger (left) explained that as of today, what they were seeing was still a bit of a mystery--scientists don’t really know why the material reacted as it does to the intense cold.
“That will be up to your generation to discover,” Ettinger said. “And because of the lack of [electrical] resistence it has as a superconductor, knowing how to use this material without having to keep it so cold would allow us to revolutionize the batteries and operation of cell phones, mass transit, computers and more.”
The students also were able to run a few experiments of their own. Lane Tech’s Lucas Virella and Jones College Prep’s Christopher Venegas (right) used a spectrophotometer to compare the chemical properties of two candy dyes.
“I like the chance to do lab work; I like doing the procedures, working step-by-step,” said Virella.
Venegas says he got lucky to find the Digital Youth Summer Job program: He was tagging along with a friend in Humboldt Park who was applying, and when he learned about what the program offered, he applied too. “I like computers, and I know they’ll always be there, so I think I’ll try that for a career,” he said.
Over the summer, Venegas worked at the Youth Tech Corp, which rebuilds computers. “They’d disable a part, and we had to diagnose what was wrong and fix it,” he said. “I learned a lot about how they work and how to get them to work properly.”
Will Wu and Venegas, Zaragoza and Collazo follow through on their teenage dreams of working with computers or as scientists? If they do, maybe spending a day at Argonne and a summer as a digital youth will have helped pave the way.
Posted in Smart Communities News