Harpur alum’s Department of Energy internship leads to job at national lab

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As a 2022 intern for the Department of Energy’s Technology Commercialization Internship Program, Danielle Ferreira ’23 knew what she wanted to do after graduating from Harpur College with a BS in physics. When she got called up for a full-time position at the Idaho National Laboratory, it was like a dream come true.

Q. Can you tell me a little bit about your internship? What did you do?

A. I found this internship through a Binghamton University program called Smart Energy Scholars. The program advertised itself as an opportunity for researchers and I was very involved in research at the time, so I applied to work at Brookhaven National Lab for the summer and I was accepted.

The next thing I knew, they had us come in and take entrepreneurial classes. We went through a program called Energy I-Corps that teaches you how to use the business model canvas, cold-calling techniques and networking skills. They then gave us specific technology from each laboratory and told us to write a feasibility study on it. We had to look at what the industry was looking for and what our technology could contribute, then see if we could match them. Unfortunately, I was one of the few interns that got assigned a technology that I determined was infeasible.

When I wrote my feasibility study based on all my research, I determined that it could not be commercialized and thankfully people responded really positively. Even with the negative report, I ended up loving the program. I liked how the job demanded a combination of interpersonal social skills and STEM knowledge.

Q. How did this internship affect your future career plans?

A. My internship with the Department of Energy’s Technology Commercialization Internship Program inspired the work I’m doing today. The Idaho National Laboratory and the Brookhaven National Laboratory are two of the 17 national labs that the Department of Energy runs in the U.S. While working at Brookhaven for my internship, I spent a lot of time networking and I was able to connect with one of the commercialization managers here at INL, Jon Cook.

Jon took on a mentoring role with me and, when I graduated, he reached out to ask if I was looking for a job. Obviously, as a new graduate you’re always looking for a job, and I was given the opportunity to do exactly what I was doing last summer at INL. It was a dream come true for me and now I’m here at INL working full time.

Q. How are you liking your job at the Idaho National Laboratory?

A. I’m loving it. I moved from New York to the Midwest and it was definitely different, but it’s been so nice. There’s a lot of cool stuff to do. I live really close to Yellowstone and it’s a great job, so life is going pretty well lately.

Q. How was your time at Binghamton University?

A. I had a phenomenal experience at Binghamton University, despite COVID hitting during my first year. I think Binghamton does a great job of providing opportunities for their students and, speaking from experience, each opportunity inspires exponential growth. Everything you involve yourself in expands your network and the larger your network is, the more future opportunities will come to you.

Binghamton was great at helping me network and exposing me to so many different clubs, programs and organizations, and the school is a big part of where I am today.

Q. Would you recommend the Department of Energy’s Internship Program to prospective students?

A. Yes. Even though other students may not love the Technology Commercialization Internship Program as much as I did, I’d definitely recommend that students look at other national labs around the country and see what work they’re doing. The Department of Energy has a lot of great programs and it’s worth applying to them. Research folks should particularly look into their SULI (Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship) program.

Q. What’s your favorite part about being a Binghamton alum?

A. Our university is unique for being a “jack of all trades.” Students coming out of Binghamton are more than capable in any field they choose. It’s been so nice to see that reflected in my college peers.

Q. If you could give one piece of advice to Binghamton students, what would it be?

A. I would tell them to leverage their position as a student. There are a lot of people in various industries who want to know that you’re coming from a position of learning and humility, and they are really receptive if they know you’re interested in growth.

More generally, I think everyone needs a good elevator pitch. It’s important to work on how you’re going to quickly leave an impression, and once you have that down, you’ll go a long way.

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