On November 13, 2014, Florida International University’s (FIU’s) Applied Research Center (ARC) conducted the eighth (8th) annual DOE Fellows’ Induction Ceremony. This year, fifteen (15) FIU STEM students were inducted as DOE Fellows. Mr. Kenneth Picha (Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Tank Waste and Nuclear Materials Management, DOE Office of Environmental Management) was one of the keynote speakers for the ceremony. Mr. Picha remarked on the continuing partnership between DOE and FIU over the last two decades and the DOE EM environmental challenge. He also pointed out that a former DOE Fellow (Mr. Edgard Espinosa – DOE Fellow Class of 2007) currently works in his group at DOE EM-20. Mr. Picha concluded his remarks by welcoming the new class of DOE Fellows.

Other distinguished guests included Mr. Andrew Szilagyi (Director, Office of D&D and Facility Engineering, DOE EM), Mr. Steven Tibrea (Savannah River National Laboratory), Ms. Margie Brown (Minority Serving Institute Outreach Program Manager, Georgia Tech Research Institute), Dr. Elizabeth Fleming and Dr. Carlos Ruiz (Army Corps of Engineers), Mr. Jamey Capers (Indian River State College Regional Center for Nuclear Education and Training), Mr. James Ault (Florida Power & Light), Mr. Lorenzo Cabrera and Chris Wright (Cabrera Services), Dr. Carlos Mallol and former DOE Fellow Lilian Marrero (MWH America Inc.). FIU was represented at the event by Dr. Andrés Gil (Vice President for Research), Dr. Todd Crowl (Director FIU’s Southeastern Research Center), Dr. Inés Triay (ARC Executive Director) and Dr. Leonel E. Lagos (ARC Director of Research/DOE Fellows Program Director), as well as FIU faculty, staff, and students.

Mr. Picha and the other distinguished guests had the opportunity to participate in morning tours of the ARC research laboratories and listen to DOE Fellows presenting their research work. Presentations were given by Dr. Lagos and DOE Fellows Anthony Fernandez, Meilyn Planas, and Christian Pino. Dr. Lagos presented an overview of the DOE Fellows program. DOE Fellow Anthony Fernandez presented his summer internship experience and research on updating Enraf reference levels for high-level nuclear waste tanks at the Hanford Site under the supervision of Mr. Ruben Mendoza. DOE Fellow Meilyn Planas presented her DOE EM research on the D&D decision model for the selection of fixatives, strippable coatings, and decontamination gels. DOE Fellow Christian Pino presented his summer internship experience and research on using an XRF to characterize pre-Hanford orchards under the supervision of Mr. Amoret Bunn.

Tours of the ARC facilities included visits to the environmental technology laboratory, the composites laboratory, the cybersecurity research laboratory, the soil & groundwater laboratory, the high bay facility, the radiological laboratory, and the ARC technology demonstration area. Technologies showcased included the peristaltic crawler and asynchronous pulsing unit for pipeline unplugging, the in situ decommissioning sensor network (ISDSN) test cube, the D&D Knowledge Management Information Tool (D&D KM-IT) cross-platform mobile application development and cybersecurity infrastructure, and the SLIM sonar technology for detecting residual waste in high-level waste (HLW) tanks. Additional applied research presented during the facilities tours included computational fluid dynamics for multiphase flow in Hanford tanks, a study of unrefined humate solution as a possible remediation method for groundwater contamination at SRS, and soil and groundwater research being performed for Hanford’s uranium contamination. In addition, 17 DOE Fellows had the opportunity to showcase their research by presenting posters as part of the afternoon events.

The Science & Technology Workforce Development Program (DOE Fellows Program) was established in 2007 under a partnership between FIU and DOE EM to create a “pipeline” of minority scientists and engineers specifically trained and mentored to enter the DOE’s workforce in technical areas of need.

During this year’s Induction Ceremony, 15 new FIU STEM students were inducted as DOE Fellows:

  • Brian Castillo – undergraduate, biomedical engineering
  • John Conley – undergraduate, mechanical engineering
  • Andrew De La Rosa – undergraduate, computer engineering
  • Jorge Deshon – undergraduate, computer engineering
  • Maria Eugenia Diaz – undergraduate, environmental engineering
  • Maximiliano Edrei – undergraduate, mechanical engineering
  • Anthony Fernandez – undergraduate, mechanical engineering
  • Janesler Gonzalez – undergraduate, mechanical engineering
  • Kiara Pazan – undergraduate, environmental engineering
  • Meilyn Planas – undergraduate, electrical engineering
  • Yoel Rotterman – undergraduate, mechanical engineering
  • Ryan Sheffield – undergraduate, mechanical engineering
  • Aref Shehadeh – undergraduate, environmental engineering
  • Jesse Viera – undergraduate, mechanical engineering
  • Christine Wipfli – undergraduate, environmental engineering

In addition, awards were presented to the DOE Fellows that won the DOE Fellows Poster Exhibition and Competition held on October 23, 2014. First place was awarded to Mr. Dayron Chigin for his poster titled, “Residual Waste Detection in HLW Tanks.” Second place went to Ms. Gabriela Vazquez for her poster titled, “Miniature Motorized Vehicle for Department of Energy Hanford Site Tank Bottoms.” Third place was awarded to Mr. Anthony Fernandez for his poster titled “Enraf Reference Level Updates for High-Level Nuclear Waste Tanks at Hanford.”

For the sixth year, the DOE Fellow of the Year Award and the Mentor of the Year Award were presented in the ceremony. DOE Fellows were requested to nominate their ARC mentors and ARC mentors were requested to nominate the DOE Fellows. An ARC committee was established to review and select the winners from the submitted nominations. The 2014 Mentor of the Year Award went to research analyst Mr. Jairo Crespo and the 2014 DOE Fellow of the Year Award was awarded to Mr. Anthony Fernandez (DOE Fellows Class of 2014) and Mr. Hansell Gonzalez Raymat (DOE Fellows Class of 2013).

The new DOE Fellows also received a congratulatory letter from our Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen welcoming them into this Fellowship. Ms. Ros-Lehtinen also highlighted the need for students to pursue STEM careers and the DOE Fellows role as future leaders in the practice of keeping our nation’s nuclear weapons facilities in safe condition.

For more information on this unique program, please visit http://fellows.fiu.edu/ or contact DOE Fellows Director, Dr. Leonel E. Lagos at LagosL@fiu.edu or (305) 348-1810.