Engineering students gain valuable research experience at NREL summer program

October 3, 2022 - by Kim Delker

photo: 3 student winners

The University of New Mexico is partnering with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, to provide undergraduates with research experience in a rapidly growing and crucial area, as climate change becomes a key issue around the globe.

The NREL Student Training in Applied Research (STAR) Undergraduate Internship program is being led at UNM by Michael Devetsikiotis, professor and chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, along with Ali Bidram, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Svetlana Poroseva, professor of mechanical engineering.

This summer, three undergraduates from the School of Engineering participated in the first NREL STAR Summer School: Ester Aguilera from computer science, Bryan Kendall from mechanical engineering, and Christopher Dankocsik from electrical and computer engineering.

The students spent 10 weeks at NREL, which paired them with an NREL mentor and allowed them to conduct cutting-edge research. The students received a salary, housing and travel funds.

“This program provides good research experience, especially for students interested in renewable energy,” Poroseva said. “We need more students who are interested in studying these important and challenging issues, and to perhaps become interested in graduate school. We’re hoping that this is just the start of our collaboration.”

Students created posters on research projects, which included solar energy and climate modeling. Aguilera was selected to give a speech on her research at the closing ceremony, which featured keynote speaker Shalanda Baker, director of the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity at the U.S. Department of Energy.

As part of the program, the students will continue the research started at NREL throughout the school year at UNM.