June 29, 2015
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Livermore Lab gives Orion Academy intern a taste of possible career in 'squishy science'

Carrie L Martin, martin59 [at] llnl.gov, (925) 424-4715

In a continuing partnership with Orion Academy, the Engineering Directorate at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is hosting Marissa Hall, a senior from Orion, as this year’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) intern. Located in Moraga, Orion Academy occupies a unique, progressive niche by providing a high quality college preparatory program for students whose academic success is compromised by a neurocognitive disability such as Asperger’s Syndrome or nonverbal learning disability (NLD). The internship, which runs from June 1 to June 30, is part of the Lab’s summer internship program under the Scholars and Onboarding Team led by Susan Lowder in Strategic Human Resources Management and sponsored by Tony Baylis, director of the Office of Strategic Diversity and Inclusion Programs.

Hall was selected for the Laboratory internship by Orion faculty members Olivia Flint and Liz Palmer. "When they told me that I would be interning at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, I wasn’t even sure what it was," Hall said. "After they explained it to me, I was pretty excited."

Hall is assigned to the Materials Engineering Division where, under the supervision of Terri DeLima and Elanie Behymer (her mentor), she has been working diligently in the Center for Micro and Nano Technology (CMNT) compiling Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for approved chemicals along with associated documentation for standard operating procedures for equipment.

"Marissa has been contributing to the launch of the CMNT new user facility website by making it easy for users to review MSDS of approved chemicals and gases by uploading them to the CMNT website," said Delima.

Hall is also working with mentor and principal researcher, Vanessa Tolosa. "Marissa is inspecting neural implant devices with high powered microscopes looking for defects that would impact device performance," said Tolosa.

"The neural implant devices are research devices that our group is developing to understand how the brain works," she said. "Future versions of the device will be used to record and stimulate brain signals in individuals with neurological disorders."

Hall has immersed herself into the month-long experience and has proven herself to be very dedicated. She leaves her house in Walnut Creek at 5:45 a.m., walks to nearby bus stop, takes one bus to Dublin, hops on another bus to Livermore and walks into the Laboratory arriving around 8:30 a.m.

Hall, who says she has always been good at biology and math, is interested in pursuing a degree/career in biology. "My dad says that my mom and I like the ‘squishy’ science. He likes rocks, the ‘hard’ science," said Hall. "Through learning about bioengineering here at the Lab and by taking a biotech class this summer, I hope to figure out what I want to do in the future. The work here is interesting and I am enjoying learning new things."

"The mentors and I have been very impressed with quality and efficiency of Marissa’s work," said Delima. "Not only is she is a quick learner, I feel Marissa’s love of science and eagerness to take on a challenge and learn new things will take her far in her future career."


The Engineering Directorate welcomed Hall to her internship enthusiastically and is committed to ensuring a positive learning experience for her. Many employees throughout the organization such as Anantha Krishnan, associated director for engineering, along with engineering employees Elaine Behymer, Christy Chivers, Terri Delima, Meredith Evans, Beth McCormick, Sabrena Ramirez, Roberto Ruiz, Randy Pico and Vanessa Tolosa, have all participated in making the opportunity possible for her.  

"Engineering is committed to providing applied learning experiences to students demonstrating a strong interest in STEM education," said McCormick, recruiting and diversity manager. "Marissa is a great example of a student with unique challenges who has demonstrated her interest in STEM through her academic achievements. We hope this experience has provided her with even more motivation to achieve."

Orion Academy was founded in 2000 by Director Katherine Stewart, Ph.D and offers high school students an academic curriculum that is challenging and structured to help them discover and develop their individual gifts and strengths, become self-advocates and realize their full potential. Orion Academy is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and offers courses approved by UC Berkeley. Orion Academy is a participating organization in the Lab’s Helping Others More Effectively (HOME) Campaign. Read more about Orion Academy on the Web.