As the school year begins, teachers and students across the nation will pose this question to one another. For 14 post-graduate students, the answer will revolve around their experience working as part of TerraPower’s team in the northwest part of the United States.
Internships at TerraPower don’t involve the dreaded “coffee and errands” tasks commonly associated with internships. Rather, as Shaughnessy Brown (current M.S. candidate in mechanical engineering, Stanford University) puts it, “Here at TerraPower, we all have very good, cohesive projects that are applicable and interesting and utilize critical thinking.” For Evan Albright (B.S. in computer science, Carleton College), “the biggest thing was learning how what I’ve been studying applies to the real world.” He enjoyed learning more about the company’s long-view investment approach and mission-driven goals. “I really appreciate feeling like part of the team and working toward this grand goal of helping the world out with clean energy.”
Even interns play a role in TerraPower’s unique approach to innovation. Take Mark Onufer’s work this summer on modeling an experimental facility. Under the guidance of his mentor, he invented automation software that can be used to model related facilities in their various configurations. “My mentor has been very supportive,” said Mark (M.S. in nuclear engineering, Oregon State University). “I’ve learned a lot more than I would have if I had just gone with the initial way we were thinking. It’s been cool.”
Similarly, Nick Hobbs (M.S. candidate in nuclear and radiological engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology), took advantage of opportunities to learn about the broader nuclear industry. Even though he worked primarily with the reactor safety team, exposure to TerraPower’s company-wide weekly meetings showed him how his work fit into the larger goals of the company. “I learned so, so much about programming, about nuclear engineering, safety and mechanical engineering,” he said. “It’s very easy to see the direct impact your work is having on company’s work.”
TerraPower’s business approach often involves learning to work across disciplines. So, even if you aren’t studying nuclear engineering, an internship at TerraPower can be valuable. Ben Steer studied architectural engineering at the University of Wyoming, but spent the summer in TerraPower’s testing department. Working with the company’s benchmark testing lead, he gained first-hand experience in 3-D model design that he’ll take to his new job at an architecture firm in Seattle. “One of the things TerraPower has taught me overall has been how to problem-solve,” he says. “I definitely feel that once I leave this internship, I’ll know a lot more about how to interface with getting something built from a design engineers’ point of view.”
If you’re interested in joining the 2015 class of TerraPower interns, keep an eye on our careers page for next summer’s openings; positions should be posted sometime in January or February.