Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship (MLEF)

The MLEF is a highly competitive 10-week summer educational fellowship program for students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) majors. MLEF is sponsored by the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management. Students are onsite at NETL researching for 9 weeks, followed by a 1-week technical forum at an offsite location.

The MLEF program was created in 1995 to improve opportunities for under-represented students in STEM fields and strengthen a diverse pipeline of future STEM professionals. The program provides participants the unique opportunity to gain direct research experience with fossil energy at various DOE national laboratories across the country. Participants gain insight into how DOE is working to meet the energy challenges of the future, including policy and regulation, project finance, and strategic performance measures.

Ann Tirado, is a Masters student at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering majoring in Mechanical Engineering with an Energy Engineering and Policy specialty. She also has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez. Her research project during MLEF, titled Thermal Energy Storage Model, applied classroom knowledge with real world techniques to aid in developing a real-time model for the excess sensible heat in the power system by simulating the hottest component in the post-combustor. This research supports the initiatives at NETL to minimize the environmental impacts of fossil fuels while working towards net-zero emissions.

“This has been my favorite summer internship experience, even as a remote program. I learned a lot and all the programs and projects being done kept me engaged and interested. I felt supported throughout the appointment by both my mentor and research advisor, and by the larger team. While being at the lab would've been an incredible experience, I felt that the virtual appointment was not lacking. Our team connected regularly over calls and communication felt easy. The enrichment activities also helped make the program feel whole. Overall, it was a great experience. I felt like I wanted to be involved in everything because it was so interesting. It was a positive experience where I learned a lot and was able to apply my knowledge, ask questions, and feel like I am contributing to the team. I learned how fossil energy research helps make our existing systems better and cleaner while making way for new systems to be integrated.”

Kayla Ghezzi, is a Junior Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering major at Johns Hopkins University, where she does research in the heterogenous catalyst lab where catalysts are designed to break down plastics so they can be reused. This experience fit perfectly with her research project titled Data Mining of Plastic Upcycling. She is passionate about sustainability and environmental conservation and plans to pursue a PhD so she can conduct climate research and participate in renewable energy innovation.

“My Point of Contact was always helpful and kind to me and invited me to meetings and had me talk about my project which really helped me to feel included. The Principal Investigators in the meetings were so patient and encouraging and made me feel at ease. I wish it was in person but even though it was online it was conducted well, and I still got to meet people and interact in a professional way. I got to go to different talks still and many team meetings. The most valuable aspect of my NETL experience was all the people I got to meet and hear about what they are doing and what kinds of work can be done. I got to be surrounded by people who care about the work they do, and they are all encouraging and are willing to give a helping hand. It has made me even more interested because there are even more facets than I knew about.”

Jane Cloninger is a Senior majoring in Chemical Engineering, Sustainability Studies, and Geography at the University of Texas at Austin. While also seeking a minor in Humanitarian Engineering, she has explored humanitarian engineering and environmental advocacy through interning with the Colorado River Alliance, researching vegetation in the Kalahari, Botswana, and managing the construction of a disaster relief shelter in Tamil Nadu, India. Her MLEF research project titled Resource Map for Modular Co-Gasification of Coal Waste, Biomass and Other Waste Materials developed an interactive, user-friendly resource map of waste coal and biomass resources in the U.S., and to recommend potential sites and scales for modular co-gasification plants. This project used public geospatial data to map coal and biomass resources.

“I had a really good experience with all of the NETL staff I met. My mentor Mark Smith (Morgantown) was especially awesome. I felt like I had an appropriate amount of work and a lot of autonomy. The speaker series were great to continually check in and have structured content mid-week. I got a lot out of the entire program. I loved doing the research itself and presenting my research at the end. I had daily communication with my mentor for at least the first 5 weeks, and it was really beneficial because I got to know him, heard interesting stories about DOE and grad school, and learned a lot of background info about the research that his group handles. My research was truly interesting and personally fulfilling to me, and I had a lot of autonomy over what I wanted to study. I developed a great relationship with my mentor, and I will definitely be asking for some grad school recommendation letters from him in the future! I might even return to NETL to perform research during grad school. This program was a really great experience. I think this internship opened me up to the possibility of working in the federal government or National Lab system in the future.”

Check out our past MLEF overview videos: