News Release

Release Date: July 25, 2013

How a Chemical Engineering Major and Track Star Came to a DOE Summer Internship

A few of the summer of 2013 Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship class. Pictured from left to right: Wendy Hertulien, Noelle Hilliard, Vianey Escobar, and Jasmin Selby.

From an early age my mother always instilled in me that education was important.  As a young child, growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, I was not always the best at math. During the fourth grade I was placed in a summer program to better my math skills. This gave me the foundation I needed to understand the math concepts enabling me to master the skills. With this new confidence, I began to excel in math and science related courses, even now as I enter my senior year at Howard University.

When deciding what I wanted to do after high school, I knew that college was my best option. My older sister was just finishing up a degree in biomedical engineering, so following in her footsteps; I decided that I would major in engineering as well. Since I enjoyed math and chemistry what better major than merging the two—Chemical Engineering. However, one huge problem stood in the way; how would I pay for school? In high school, I competed on the track team and saw that this could possibly be a way for me to fund my education and still be involved with the sport I loved. With hard work on the track and in the classroom, I received an athletic scholarship for track at Howard University that covered the majority of my expenses.

As a student-athlete majoring in chemical engineering as well being an active member in the National Society of Black Engineers, Phi Sigma Rho National Sorority and The Grassroots Project, I had my plate full. Finding summer internships was somewhat put on the back burner but when I saw the flyer to apply for the Mickey Leland Energy Program I took full grasp of the opportunity.

The Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship is a 10-week summer internship program sponsored by the Department of Energy. The program is geared towards minority women in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields.  I am currently working with mentors in the office of Fossil Energy to create a financial model for a natural gas power plant. Entering the program as a Chemical Engineering major with no business background, I was a little leery of what to expect when told that the majority of my projects would be focused on the business aspect. However, I have been able to gain a whole new perspective on just how important engineering is to financing capital expenditures for various infrastructures.  Since I have a strong understanding of the basic math concepts behind creating budgets, I was able to transfer the skills on a much larger scale.

 This summer has been a great learning experience for me.  I have been able to learn multiple financial terms and equations as well as how to apply my engineering skills to help build my very own financial model. Out of the 700 applicants who applied only 40 were selected. Being a part of this program is an honor. Knowing that I am among some of the best and brightest individuals make this experience worthwhile. The mentors, faculty, and my fellow interns have all welcomed me warmly adding to the overall experience.

During my time at Department of Energy, I have also been able to sit in on various meetings at the Germantown and Forestall sites, including a Lean Six Sigma Forum, which allowed me to learn about topics that will be beneficial to my future as a chemical engineer. This program has given me the confirmation to continue my education by receiving her Masters of Business Administration. Getting to know the business side of chemical engineering will allow me to connect with what really matters—the people.  I would like to eventually work for a biomedical or chemical company and I am even considering a career with a government agency such as the Department of Energy.