Student intern explores robots and radioactive waste

Lauren Dermody, an engineering intern at Savannah River Site, poses with a $175,000 robot, known as the "Packbot," that she is evaluating for a role in handling radioactive waste.

Engineering student Lau­ren Dermody is spending her summer getting acquainted with robots that make the cleanup of radioactive waste easier and safer.


The Augusta State Univer­sity graduate is among 34 college students participating in Savannah River Reme­diation’s internship program at Savannah River Site.

Soon after obtaining a business degree at Augusta State, the Lakeside High School graduate came across a newspaper article about a pre-engineering program with Georgia Tech. It didn’t take long for her to decide this option was the right choice.

“My interest in architecture is what led me to civil engineering,” Dermody said. “The design of structures is what drew me in. But now, being in civil engineering, I can take the beauty of the design and actually make it happen.”

As an intern with the URS-led liquid waste contractor at SRS, she had the opportunity to work with a “Packbot,” a remote-controlled, $175,000 robot that is being developed to clean portions of the site’s Defense Waste Processing Facility, where high-level radioactive waste is vitrified in glass and sealed in steel canisters.

Under the direction of site engineers John Iaukea and John Windham, Dermody’s most recent assignment involves research into how effective the Packbot will perform under certain conditions and conducting tests to determine the robot’s signal strength capacities.

Dermody hopes to have a multitude of job opportunities after graduation.

“Being a civil engineering student, I hope to work with URS in their infrastructure sector,” Dermody said. “I plan to specialize in the mass transportation side of civil engineering.”

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