Beyond the Lab: Interns build community through experiences

Three student interns in various places around the world (Download Image)

From top to bottom: Jose Rullan Enriquez, Xueyang Liu and Jacob Nuttall. 

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 third installment of the Lab’s Summer Student Series, meet some of the Lab’s 2023 summer interns and learn about what unique factors and experiences shaped their summer internship.

Being a woman in STEM

Xueyang Liu
Georgia Tech
Computer architecture

Xueyang Liu

Xueyang Liu has spent her time at the Lab interning for the Center for Applied Scientific Computing under her mentor Maya Gokhale. Liu is a third-year Ph.D. student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, focusing on computer architecture.

This summer, she has been working on an accelerator hardware design for a floating-point compression framework. Liu has been integrating the accelerator into a heterogeneous tile multiprocessor. As part of this project, she works with accelerator design, heterogeneous system protocols, and high-performance computing systems. Liu shared that she enjoys the challenge involved with changing computer architecture.

“I enjoy the project because of its forward-looking nature and the diverse collaboration around it. It's usually difficult for industry companies to drastically change their computer architecture due to the high risk, long timeline and cost for development. I like that the framework I'm working with pushes the boundaries of the existing paradigm,” she explained.

As a woman in computer science, Liu expressed how meaningful it was for her to have Maya Gokhale as her mentor throughout her internship at LLNL.

“It's very rare to see advisors who are women in my field. It was important for me to feel like there were others who understood my struggles as a woman in STEM,” Liu said. “Sometimes I didn’t feel confident enough when discussing my project’s technical details, but my mentor was always kind and empathized with me. Her support empowered me in my role as a computer scientist.”

While at the Lab, Liu was able to meet other students who, like herself, were women pursuing their doctorate degrees.  “It was nice to see a lot of commonalities between us and shared experiences. It was inspiring to meet students from different schools and majors, also pursuing similar career paths.”

Liu is optimistic for what’s ahead as she explores the world of computer science and credits the Lab for introducing her to various careers one can take in her field.  “It’s interesting to see the diverse environment here and how the teams are formed. There are so many people with different majors and departments that all come together.”

Pursuing higher education as a first-generation college student

Jacob Nuttall
University of Colorado
Computational materials science and engineering

Jacob Nuttall

This is Jacob Nuttall’s second summer internship at LLNL under the Defense Science and Technology Internship (DSTI) program. Nuttall recently graduated from Brigham Young University with a double major in physics and computer science and will begin his Ph.D. studies in computational materials science and engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder this fall.

Nuttall is a first-generation college student and the first in his family to pursue a Ph.D. Between work, supporting himself through school, and navigating finishing his degree with limited support and connections, it took a long time for Nuttall to get to where he is now.

“Coming out of my undergrad, and as I start my Ph.D., I feel like I've had to learn how to navigate many aspects of higher education the hard way,” he shared. “As an example, coming into my undergrad I didn't know how to network professionally, nor did I know the importance of it. I also didn't know what I could do with my degree as a career. Fortunately, I was able to learn about those things through courses I took in college as well as from advice given by my research mentors at my university and at the Lab.”

This summer, Nuttall is interning again for the Lab’s Weapons and Complex Integration (now Strategic Deterrence) organization. His primary role this summer is to research how covariances in model defect affects the uncertainties obtained using Bayesian inference, particularly in the context for ballistics re-entry. He is also continuing his work on a project that he started during his internship last year to improve models of heat transport under the extreme conditions of dynamic compression experiments, such as those conducted at the High Explosives Applications Facility.

Nuttall’s journey to the Lab began a bit unconventionally when he met his now-wife. When they started dating, she was interning in the High-Energy-Density-Plasmas program in the summer of 2019. Hearing about her positive experience made Nuttall want to pursue an internship at the Lab as well, so he applied.

“I had a great experience as an intern last year in the DSTI program. In particular, I had a great experience because I learned about the Lab's mission, grew my network of colleagues and mentors, and did interesting research, so I decided to apply to come back again this year,” he shared. “It's been interesting to work on the different projects and to feel involved,” he said.
Nuttall also expressed how much his experience at the Lab has allowed him to grow.

“Over the course of both summers, I feel like I have become a better scientist and have been able to fully understand what research actually is. I've developed a lot of skills and techniques that I wouldn't have been able to do otherwise,” he said.

As Nuttall enters his Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado, he is energized to explore the fields of computational materials science and engineering. He feels equipped to continue his studies by networking, asking questions, and taking on new challenges.

Finding connections as a remote intern

Jose Rullan Enriquez
University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez
Political science

Jose Rulian Enriquez

Jose Rullan Enriquez is interning at LLNL this summer as part of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Office of Radiological Security, working with the Lab’s Global Security organization. As part of his internship, he is working on assessing various risks to radiological material in Africa, specifically Burkina-Faso.

Rullan Enriquez is entering his second undergraduate year at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. His internship is part of NNSA’s Minority Serving Institution Partnership Program which aims to create and support a sustainable career pathway that prepares a diverse workforce of talented students to make immediate and significant contributions to the Nuclear Security Enterprise.

Rullan Enriquez initially heard about the internship opportunity with Lawrence Livermore from a mass email sent out to students at his university. He was the only one to reply.

“When I received my letter of appointment at LLNL and saw what I would be working on, I could not help but be excited. The responsibilities and topics I would work on seemed like a career-changing opportunity and I am glad I took it. The remote research I have done has been very interesting and I hope my work can help NNSA ensure nuclear safety throughout the world.”

As a remote intern working from Puerto Rico, Rullan Enriquez expected the experience to be very independent, and he worried about feeling isolated from others at the Lab. However, he said he was pleasantly surprised at the inclusive community created by Lab employees and was able to virtually meet other LLNL interns that shared similar experiences.

“Being a part of Lawrence Livermore has been very engaging. I always have somebody to share my thoughts and questions with. I feel more involved than I ever thought I could be as a virtual intern,” he shared. “Working under NNSA’s Office of Radiological Security has brought me close to some of the friendliest colleagues I have known. My coworkers and mentor have been extremely helpful and frequently put themselves at my disposal for any opportunity I would like to seek or any doubt I may have. It has been great!”

Despite some difficulty managing different time zones, Rullan Enriquez made the most of being a virtual intern and viewed the experience as a whole in a positive light.

“It has been a bit hectic, but fun,” he said.

“My advice for other students is that, when there is an opportunity to go for an internship, a conference or a selection process, just apply and hope for the best. Trust yourself and know that by applying, you're opening yourself up to new opportunities, so take those opportunities,” he shared.

With Rullan Enriquez beginning his sophomore year of college soon, he is eager to implement what he’s learned at LLNL into his studies and excited to apply his experiences to new opportunities.

-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.