Students earn real-world experience and skill at Savannah River Site

Adetola Akinnubi and Haley McComas are part of Savannah river remediation’s internship program learning job skills and earning experience at Savannah River Site.

For students leaving college, lack of work experience can make for a difficult job hunt, but companies at Savannah River Site bring in dozens of interns to get hands-on experience in jobs ranging from finance to nuclear engineering.

 

“You have to ask what you are doing to set yourself apart in job applications,” said Savannah River Remediation spokesman Dean Campbell. “How are you different? Internships give these students skills and experience to set them apart from the rest of the pack.”

Hannah Grimm, Adetola Akinnubi are three of those getting that sort of experience through internships at the site.

Grimm is a rising junior nuclear engineering major at the University of Florida, and 2017 is her second summer internship with Savannah River Nuclear Solutions.

“Before my internship I didn’t know which area of engineering I wanted to pursue. I worked in nuclear criticality and safety last year and that led me to choose nuclear engineering,” she said.

Akinnubi is a senior finance major at Georgia State University. She said she learned some unexpected things in the early days of her internship with Savannah River Remediation.

“I didn’t expect safety to be such a big deal. It almost makes me forget that I’m on a nuclear site, and I like that,” she said.

Akinnubi noted that working with experienced professionals has helped her learn how ideas work outside of a controlled classroom environment. Haley McComas, a senior chemical and bio-chemical engineering major at the Colorado School of Mines who is a Savannah River Remediation intern, mirrored those thoughts.

“In school you learn very specific problem scenarios and methods; you don’t have a ton of practical application,” she said. “But coming here I have learned how to apply the knowledge I learned in school to real life problems all while being able to talk to professional engineers who have been doing the job for 30 years.”

Grimm said she works on procedure revisions and has undertaken a larger project to collect and catalog knowledge held by experienced personnel but not written down.

“ Last year I learned less detailed oriented things and more general processes,” she said. “This year, because have experience and know how a lot of things run, I work on more detailed aspects.”

SRR Internship Program Coordinator Allison Brown said the knowledge earned is valuable and called the application process competitive.

“We try to post in late November or early December to get the best interns in place before they go out and sign with other companies. We have strict requirements for GPA, but their resumes and other attributes play an important role as well,” she said.

The interns said what they’ve learned will be invaluable for their careers.

“I learned what risk management is all about,” said Akinnubi. “I learned how you organize and what types of things are important when managing risk. You have one thing tied to another that is dependent upon something else. If one thing gets behind or is out of place, then you have to make up extra ground. It’s been beneficial because I want to be an investment banker and that involves a lot of risk.”

McComas added:“I will take away relationships from this experience,” McComas said. “I’ve really enjoyed meeting people from all over the world and a big part of this for me is the cultural and social experience.”

Brown praised the group and said some of them would likely return as full-time employees.

“This is a great and very diverse group,” she said. “Savannah river remediation has 26 interns this year and we hope to hire four of them full-time. Hopefully the students who are in their earlier years can come back to us as second-year interns.”

Reach Thomas Gardiner at (706) 823-3339 or thomas.gardiner@augustachronicle.com

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