Change Agent

Bluefield State College student Michael Goforth’s summer internship at Argonne National Laboratory not only sharpened his insight into global economic and environmental issues. “This internship gave me the opportunity to work on meaningful research that can change the world,” the Bluefield, WV native said.

Goforth, a senior majoring in both mechanical and electrical engineering technology, was one of approximately 150 students selected from colleges and universities around the world to participate in the Argonne National Laboratory’s student research program. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management, the program enabled students to conduct relevant research, attend content-driven seminars, and tour scientific exhibits and the MIRA supercomputer at Argonne. The environment made Argonne an ideal place for undergraduates to take part in cutting-edge research and develop skill sets for the next stage in their careers.

“I was placed in environmental science,” Goforth explained. He was on an eight-member team that also included a student chemist, environmental scientist, and mathematician. “Many of us didn’t fully grasp the state of nuclear fuels, reactors and energy in the United States. There are 60-100 nuclear reactors, both active and decommissioned, in the nation and there’s currently nowhere to store the spent nuclear fuel after it has been used—as of yet there is not an interim storage facility or a geological repository.”

Goforth analyzed hypothetical transportation routes to gather data that can be used in the future to help determine ideal locations for these interim storage facilities and/or geologic repositories. He focused upon railway routes and ran simulations to determine the safest, most feasible options.

The ten-week internship was extremely valuable, according to Goforth, who is also a member of the BSC robotics team that won the five awards including two first place categories, finishing in second place, overall, at the 2016 “Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition (IGVC) Autonomous Challenge.” “My group at Argonne worked on real science. I see the way meaningful research can change the world,” he explained.

“The experience reinforced my career goals—to become a professor of engineering and take part in ground-breaking research at a major university, and to help develop the minds of my students in ways that can change the world for the better.”

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