My original STEP proposal was for undergraduate research with a side of leadership training, but I actually ended up focusing more on the leadership side of the summer, and less on the research side. This past summer I participated in h2o’s Leadership Training program in Columbus, OH. The training took place mostly in the evenings, so during the day I took a class and was a student research assistant at the Ohio Emergency Management Agency’s Radiological Instrumentation Measurement and Calibration Lab. I worked with the OEMA’s one-year and two-year civil defense programs. I helped to calibrate the various dosimeters and other civil defense equipment for the kits that are sent to each county in Ohio. For Leadership Training (LT), I participated in a few outreach projects in the community at the beginning of the summer, and then throughout the rest of the program I learned more about how to be a leader in my community and in my faith.
During my STEP project, I was forced out of my comfort zone a lot. Throughout the summer in LT we would take part in contact evangelism on and around campus. While doing this we would ask others about their spiritual beliefs and then ask them if they would like to hear what we believe. Then we would often have really great conversations while building relationships with people we had just met. I was definitely really uncomfortable at first bringing up the topic of religion with strangers, but by the end of the summer I actually really enjoyed getting to know strangers and discussing religion with them. During the first couple of weeks in LT we participated in a community outreach program called For Columbus, where local churches got together to volunteer in the Columbus community picking up trash, raking leaves, cleaning houses, and etc. This was a really amazing and transformational experience for me. I too often take what I have for granted and I forget how blessed I truly am. At the beginning of For Columbus it was definitely hard to stay positive about picking up trash or doing yard work all day for little to no recognition, but I had to remember why I was doing it. I wasn’t picking up trash to be recognized for it. I was doing it all to show God’s love to the community. Through my faith, I am called to be a leader in the community. I am called to love my neighbors and the love on those who are in need. For Columbus was definitely a humbling experience as we helped and loved those in need. The fact that I was able to use my STEP money to be able to participate in the program and give back to the community was such a blessing.
My experience at the OEMA this summer was a great stepping stone for internships in the nuclear field for over the summer. At the end of the school year, I was considering whether or not the nuclear industry, energy or not, was something that I wanted to go in to. The position with the OEMA did a great job of showing me how diverse the nuclear industry is. I was able to work on the safety implementation side of the industry in the same building as the research reactor on campus. I remember the one day, while I was calibrating some pocket dosimeters, I was listening to a podcast about fusion reactors and about how they hope to have a functioning, self-sustaining fusion power reactor by 2020. I thought I was so cool for listening to a podcast about fusion reactors while I was working next to a fission reactor in the other room. It was this moment that I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in the nuclear industry. The fusion reactor project that I mentioned previously is called the ITER project, and it is located in Southern France. It is now my dream to be able to work on the ITER project some day in my career. Having the research position has definitely helped me move forward in the industry, and it helped me get an internship for this summer. I will be working at BWX Technologies this summer in Virginia, which is an amazing opportunity and I am super excited for.
This experience was significant to my life because it helped me with my professional development and it helped me to transform into a better leader in my community and in my faith. LT definitely helped me with my position as a resident advisor this year. I am not uncomfortable to have diverse or controversial conversations with residents that I encounter. I have also learned a lot about what other people believe and I have learned how to be respectful of their beliefs. The position with the OEMA has been wonderful because it continued into the school year, too. The OEMA position helped me to get an internship for the summer in the nuclear industry this summer.