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UT engineering students who are taking part in summer internships at Oak Ridge National Laboratory gather together, more than 60 in all.
UT engineering students who are taking part in summer internships at Oak Ridge National Laboratory gather together, more than 60 in all.

For more than seven decades, UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory have forged special connections in a number of key areas, perhaps none stronger than the personnel that the two share.

That particular bond was on display recently when members of UT’s Office of Professional Practice visited the facilities at ORNL, meeting more than sixty engineering students involved in summer internships at the lab.

Todd Reeves, director of the office, addressed the College of Engineering students and shared his thoughts about the importance of the work they are doing for ORNL and on leaving a good impression of themselves and their attitude.

“We talked about how special it is for them to be working in such a high-profile facility, and that it was key for them to do their best every day,” said Reeves. “More than that, we encouraged them to be enthusiastic and positive as they went about their work, because it shapes the impression their managers have on them.”

The students also were presented with several leadership concepts to help them recognize that even as interns they can become leaders while working in the ORNL organization.

“The opportunity for our engineering students to gain practical experience through ORNL’s summer internships is a big part of our overall cooperative education program,” said Reeves. “Many of these students working at ORNL are seeing the real-world side of engineering and research for the first time and are gaining valuable knowledge.”

UT’s Joyce Reed, assistant director of the office, and Suzanne Sawicki, the office’s coordinator, also took part in the visit, which included tours of the labs as well as a group photo opportunity.

The tours gave UT officials a first-hand look at some of the research that their students are helping conduct, and an opportunity to get valuable feedback about how the program is going.

“This internship has given me a valuable chance to utilize what I learned in the classroom and has even enhanced what I’ve learned so far,” said Aaron Armentrout, one of the UT engineering students who led a lab tour. “My time here at ORNL has been extremely beneficial, both as an engineer and as an aspiring scientist.”

The Office of Professional Practice office was founded in 1926 with the goal of helping engineering students find educationally relevant paid cooperative education positions.

In addition to the experience and pay, students who participate in the program can also gain academic credit for their work experience.

“In engineering, real-world experience is something that really enhances their future opportunities,” said Reeves. “By taking part in the programs we offer, students find that their industry and research experience helps create a deeper level of learning once they return to campus, which puts them in a much better position once they move beyond graduation.”


David Goddard (