The Texas A&M University System National Laboratories Office hosted Nuclear Security Enterprise (NSE) Day on Sept. 9. The NSE includes the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and laboratories and other sites around the country managed by the NNSA that maintain the nation’s nuclear stockpile. The NSE is among the nation’s largest employers of students in STEM fields.
Brian M. Smith, deputy associate administrator for management at the NNSA, said in his keynote address that the nuclear enterprise would hire more than 8,000 new employees across the STEM disciplines this year. These opportunities will address some of the world’s most complex engineering and scientific issues involving the safety and security of the nuclear stockpile, supporting the U.S. Navy’s nuclear propulsion fleet, and responding to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the United States and abroad.
“The workforce demographics are favorable for college students today,” Smith added. “Supervisors are often only a few years older than them, so the common ground of shared experiences, as well as the visual representation of the possibility for upward mobility is immeasurably valuable and unique.”
More than 80 students from the College of Engineering attended the annual recruiting event. Students from West Texas A&M University, Prairie View A&M University and other A&M System universities attended the event as well.
NSE Day also featured graduate and undergraduate panel discussions designed to provide students with the opportunity to ask questions and learn about internships and jobs at national labs. Ryan Vrecenar from Sandia National Laboratories explained that internships are key for recruitment at national labs and expanded on the freedom interns have to shape their own research projects. “I’ve worked with students who have done projects in areas such as software analysis, software development and machine learning,” he said. “The ability to choose their own projects essentially means interns have a hand in molding the future career they want for themselves.” There are also opportunities to network and collaborate across labs, which further opens up future career opportunities.
For students who aren’t sure if they have what it takes to pursue an internship or fellowship, Dustin LeClair from the NNSA had a few words of advice. “Show that you have an interest in your major beyond classes. Be a well-rounded person who can work with others, and have an interest in technology. Good writing skills help as well since effective communication is important. No one wants the conversation about a stray comma or grammar mistake to distract from an otherwise sound argument.”
At the NSE Day career fair, hiring managers were available to collect resumes for open job postings, internships and fellowships. Technical representatives from various companies and national labs spoke with students about employment opportunities and other benefits such as professional development and tuition reimbursement programs.
“This industry is great about helping employees better themselves by supporting advanced degrees and certifications since all that effort is usually fed back into the job,” said JD Mohundro from Honeywell. “Things like tuition reimbursement are usually based on a manager’s assessment of need, but for engineering, you often don’t even need to make a business case since engineering is the business.”
Texas A&M is one of only a handful of prestigious universities selected to host an NSE Day event to engage STEM students interested in a career with the NSE. This was Texas A&M’s second NSE Day.