From DOE-EM Newsletter Vol. 8, Issue 5, March 15, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A DOE Fellow who cut her teeth conducting research for EM into soil and groundwater remediation at the Savannah River Site (SRS) has been awarded a prestigious internship at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Christine Wipfli departs for Vienna, where the IAEA is headquartered, this month. She will spend the next year as a technical document editor and website contributor in the agency’s Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle & Waste Technology.

Christine Wipfli (Environmental Engineering)

Christine Wipfli heads to Vienna for an IAEA internship.

Wipfli is an undergraduate at Florida International University (FIU), where she is an engineering student and DOE Fellow associated with the school’s Applied Research Center(ARC).

Wipfli’s current project at SRS, under the guidance of faculty researchers, involves investigating the potential use of sodium silicate as a technique to immobilize uranium contamination in soil and groundwater.

As part of the DOE Fellows program, Wipfli was awarded a 10-week internship at EM headquarters in summer 2015, and was assigned to the Office of Soil & Groundwater Remediation. She traveled to SRS to view the area where FIU was conducting its research, as well as the Hanford Site. The visits provided her with knowledge of DOE national laboratory capabilities and a chance to work with national laboratory principal investigators.

“During my internship I was able to get exposure to a lot of different areas of DOE-EM specific to the soil and groundwater remediation initiatives around the country,” Wipfli said. “I was also able to get valuable insight into the project management side of the organization.”

Kurt Gerdes, director of the Office of Soil & Groundwater Remediation, said it was a pleasure to have Wipfli work with his team.

“If you owned your own company, you would want all of your employees to have the drive that Christine personifies,” he said.

“The mentorship she received over the summer at DOE headquarters, I think helped her in obtaining this opportunity, as well as built on what she’s done here in the DOE Fellows Program,” said Dr. Leonel Lagos, director of research at the ARC, principal investigator for the DOE-FIU Cooperative Agreement, and director of the DOE Fellows program at FIU.

ARC provides technical research support to EM in environmental remediation and student workforce development for high-priority areas such as radioactive waste processing and facility deactivation and decommissioning. The DOE Fellows’ research efforts fall under a five-year cooperative agreement between EM and FIU that has allowed the university to develop expertise and specialized facilities through its dedicated scientific and engineering work, which is aligned with EM’s mission to accelerate risk reduction and site cleanup.

Working at the IAEA will enable Wipfli to continue to broaden her horizons.

“With DOE EM focusing primarily on addressing environmental clean-up issues in the U.S., I am very eager to see the management of environmental issues on a global scale. To see this extra layer of complexity to environmental remediation is going to be interesting,” she said.

“They not only have to deal with the challenges of environmental remediation but additionally issues relating to international relations, social issues, political-cultural conflicts and different political agendas that influence their ability to remediate certain environmental areas,” she said.  “So I am very excited to get this kind of exposure. I’m very humbled and honored to be selected for this opportunity and I am really looking forward to taking it all in and learning as much as I can while I am there.”

A native of Milwaukee, Wipfli obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications studies with a minor in Spanish from Cardinal Stritch University. Afterwards, she moved to Brazil and began working for an online news website, based out of Rio de Janeiro. While writing news articles on environmental issues in that country, she eventually became motivated to take a more proactive approach towards the environment than just writing about it.

“My hope is that with this internship at the IAEA, I will be able to use my skills and experience towards this effort by contributing to the agency’s mission of making a positive impact on the world,” she said.