Every year, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) welcomes hundreds of interns for an experiential, hands-on approach to learning. Working with some of the brightest minds in their fields, LLNL’s interns have the opportunity to explore new projects, build their skills, connect with mentors and integrate into Lab culture — resulting in a meaningful experience that both supports the Lab’s missions and enriches their future careers.
In this first installment of the Lab’s Summer Student Series, meet some of the Lab’s 2023 summer interns and learn about their unique and sometimes challenging journeys to LLNL.
Shehada landed her internship in the Global Security Directorate this summer, where she supports the GridSweep project. At the Lab, she analyzes signals of inverter-based resources and studies subsynchronous oscillations that can impact the stability of the smart grid.
“It’s exciting to ensure the reliability of the bulk power grid, so we have light and electricity at our fingertips,” she said.
Getting here was no easy triumph, however. Born in Kansas but raised in Kuwait, Shehada grew up in an immigrant Palestinian household, where her parents instilled in her a passion for science early on. As someone who was always fascinated by the intricacies of physics and the advancement of technology, she decided to pursue electrical engineering.
Shehada completed her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Kuwait University. She said at that point, she had two choices.
“I could either follow the norm of the Middle Eastern conservative culture and stay with my family in Kuwait or take the bold step to break away from culture restrictions and complete my higher studies overseas alone,” she said. With the support of her parents, Shehada became the first woman in the family’s history to travel overseas on her own to pursue her higher studies. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at Virginia Tech.
Considering the challenges she has faced, Shehada said her internship at the Lab is a dream come true. “The chance of working in such an esteemed Lab was a dream for me. It never crossed my mind that I would work somewhere that has made scientific discoveries which have changed people’s lives,” Shehada said
She said she hopes her story inspires women — especially those from restricted societies and cultures — to pursue their higher education and raise the bar of expectations for future generations to come.
“I want to share a message to the world that no matter how restricted the society a woman may come from, with strong will and dedication you can achieve victory against the limitations of those restrictions," she said. "Stay optimistic. Stay hopeful.”
College of Marin
Monti is spending his summer internship working on implantable microdevices in the Engineering Directorate at the Lab. His project involves designing an automated reactive accelerating aging system to replicate the characteristics of the brain’s natural foreign body response for testing the material decomposition and longevity of neural implants. What makes this project unique for Monti is its multidisciplinary approach to engineering and focus on brain-computer interfacing.
Becoming an engineer was a self-driven goal for Monti for many years.
“I have had a passion for learning for as long as I can remember. Since I was young, I always knew I wanted to be an engineer,” he said.
Monti was diagnosed with Dyslexia and Attention-deficit Disorder (ADD) at nine years old. It was a challenging time in his life, but instead of letting his diagnosis discourage him — Monti turned it into steadfast determination. Throughout high school, he stayed true to his passion for engineering and doubled on his science courses because he knew it would push him further toward his goals.
After graduating, he enrolled at the College of Marin where he currently studies physics and materials science while pursuing music and DJing on the side.
Monti’s introduction to the Lab was made possible through Growth Sector, an organization that helps students apply to Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories. He knew that he wanted to intern at LLNL, and despite initially being offered an internship elsewhere, he persisted toward an opportunity at the Lab. His current Lab mentor was the one who contacted Monti about his application.
“Since working here, I've been very connected to my engineering identity," he said. "Especially when I figure something out and it's that ‘aha’ moment. But it's also that ‘I'm an engineer’ moment, which is really powerful.”
Despite the challenges he faced to get here, Monti is thankful for the opportunity.
“It has been a long and emotional journey to be sitting where I am," he said. "While I haven’t been at the Lab very long, I feel a strong sense of belonging and feel as if I have found my tribe.
“I want to share my story to inspire those facing challenges with learning and self-doubt. If you think you can or think you can't, you're right. Only you can hold yourself back. Stay true to yourself and you will go far.”
University of Tennessee
Browning has always been fascinated by the unknown. When she was younger, she would take things apart and put them back together to see how it all worked.
In her hometown of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, she recalls playing disc golf at a golf course near the Y-12 Complex, where one of the fairways was near a fence with “No Trespassing” signs. “Every time I saw that fence, I became more and more enthralled by what was happening inside,” Browning said.
When she discovered that Y-12 was a National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) site and learned more about the mission of DOE national labs, she knew that’s where she wanted to be. That path led her to engineering.
Browning admits that, at times, she has felt imposter syndrome, but she’s never let that deter her from pursuing her dream. Last year, she earned her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, and will have a master’s degree in nuclear engineering in spring 2024. Her ultimate goal is to have a career within the NNSA supporting the U.S. nuclear deterrent, and she sees her LLNL internship as a key step in realizing that vision.
“I want others to know that you can always reach your goals, you just have to find your own path and commit to following it,” she said.
At the Lab, she spends her days supporting the Defense Technologies Engineering Division by documenting safety notes, doing supportive engineering design and setting up test equipment.
"I approach problems with the assumption that there is a solution," she said. "I never admit defeat or assume that something cannot be accomplished. It is always: what are the next steps?”
Browning said that, at the Lab, inspiration is all around. “I don’t know how you can be in a place like Lawrence Livermore and not just look around and think about how awesome it is to be surrounded by so many cool things and brilliant people.”
– Gianella Martinez-Gugliotta
At Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, our employees are our greatest asset. LLNL continues to act on its commitment to foster strong values and a culture that embraces inclusion, diversity, equity and accountability (IDEA). Our Laboratory culture aims to allow everyone to feel like they belong and that their thoughts and ideas are valuable contributions to LLNL’s mission. IDEA at LLNL has proven to be vital in supporting the Laboratory's mission, driving innovation, groundbreaking research and discovery. We encourage students to explore our available student programs and apply.
casonhua1 [at] llnl.gov