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NETL Mentor Profile: Don Ferguson

Don FergusonName:
Don Ferguson

Research mechanical engineer, principal investigator for Pressure Gain Combustion Project

How long have you been at NETL?
19 years

How long have you served as a mentor for research associates?
Since 2008

Did you participate in an NETL internship program?
“Yes, I did my Ph.D. research through a similar student internship program. This was a great opportunity as it opened a door to my hiring for a federal position once I completed the program.”

How do research associates contribute to the success of NETL?
“The Lab’s internship program has been a great opportunity for NETL researchers and mentors to collaborate with talented students at the beginning of their careers. Students bring an ‘energy’ and curiosity into the research effort that helps to drive scientific exploration.”

How does their experience at NETL help them achieve their career goals?
“Conducting research at a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory is a prestigious opportunity. Students are exposed to state-of-the-art research activities as the national laboratories lead some of the world’s most interesting and impactful scientific explorations. They also benefit from exposure to many different activities such as being able to attend conferences or meet with researchers from other organizations.”

You have served as a mentor for more than a decade. What motivates you?
“I really like the drive and determination of the students. I want to be able to provide the students with a good experience and give them as many opportunities as possible. Seeing the students thrive and benefit from the program is what keeps me wanting to participate in the program.” 

Please share some information about what ignited your early interests in science and engineering.
“I was a curious kid. I always liked to take things apart to better understand how they worked. Lucky for me, my parents were fairly forgiving when I couldn’t always put things back together in working order. My sister is also an engineer. Growing up with her drove my interest in science. 

I got my first computer when I was in the eighth grade (1982), and not many kids at my school had one. I remember getting computer magazines as a kid that had the source code for games like Dig Dug and Asteroids, and I would spend hours coding these programs. I also spent a lot of time outside exploring nature and going to summer camp. I was in Boy Scouts and an Eagle Scout, which also had an impact on driving my curiosity for learning how things work.” 

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