SMC Students to Intern at Nation’s Top Laboratories

NMR lab - SMC professor Jamie Anderson (left) and students

     SMC became the first community college in the nation to participate in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland. SMC students joined students from such prestigious institutions as MIT, Dartmouth, UC Irvine, Swarthmore and Wellesley. “From what I heard from the people at NIST, our students were right up there with anyone from any other college or university,” says Marvin Martinez, SMC’s Associate Vice President of Planning and Development, who first brought SMC to the attention of the administrators of the SURF program at NIST for the summer of 2001. “I had one gentleman tell me that as soon as one of our students earned his Ph.D. he could walk right in and start working at NIST, that’s how much they thought of him.”

SMC chemistry students with SMC professor of NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) Jamey Anderson (seated).     During the summer of 2002, four Santa Monica College students have been accepted to serve as interns at NIST while a veritable platoon of other SMC students fan out across the country, from Washington D.C. to Berkeley, California; from Albany, New York to good old L.A., working as interns at such institutions as the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Federal Aviation Administration, the United States Congress, the Federal Highway Administration, and the Veteran’s Health Administration. “I am incredibly excited about going up to the Berkeley Lab,” says Silja Haapanen who will be serving as an intern at the Lab’s Nuclear Science Division which is engaged in experimental research into the nature of the neutrino, one of the building-block particles of the universe. The Berkeley Lab enjoys an international reputation and has been the research center for nine Nobel Prize-winning scientists, including Glenn T. Seaborg, Earnest O. Lawrence and Owen Chamberlain. The Lab has been involved in groundbreaking work on a wide spectrum of scientific inquiry, including research into gamma rays, anti-protons and supernovas. “I have been following the arguments about the neutrino in all the science magazines for some time now—does it have mass, does it not have mass—and to think that now I’m going to be right in the center of it! It’s pretty amazing.” Gustavo GonzalezThree other students from Santa Monica College will be joining Haapanen as interns at the Lab: Gustavo Gonzalez will also be working with the Nuclear Science Division, assisting Dr. Daniela Wutte on her work with the Lab’s 88-inch Cyclotron, a particle accelerator which is being utilized to explore the inner workings of heavy-ion beams; Deepak Malhorta will be working with Dr. William Stringfellow at the Laboratory’s Earth Sciences Division and Center for Environmental Biotechnology—Deepak will be working on an a project related to the biodegradation of MTBE in groundwater; and Ruzan Shahinian will be joining Dr. Ashok Gadgill and Dr. Philip Price at the Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division as they analyze airborne tracer gases using computed tomography. This is the first time any Santa Monica College students have traveled to the Berkeley Lab to serve as interns there. “This is such a great opportunity for all of these students,” says Vicki Rothman, the manager of SMC’s Career Services Center and the person who coordinated many of the College’s internship applications. “They are getting hands-on experience with the leading people in their chosen fields—what more could you ask for? And, as a special added bonus, it’s going to look wonderful on their resumes when they apply to four-year universities.”

Silja Haapanen     Silja Haapanen is not your stereotypical science nerd: a former fashion model from Finland, Silja left the runway behind and turned to jewelry design when she became disenchanted with the values of the fashion industry: “I got tired of everyone being concerned about wide your backside is,” she says, laughing. “Modeling is extremely stressful on a very superficial level.” While designing jewelry and working with gems, Haapanen became fascinated with the composition of minerals: “I wanted to climb inside the gems and see what they were made of,” she says. “Besides, I’ve wanted to be a scientist since I was a little kid,” adds Silja who moved to the United States with her family when she was ten. “Studying at SMC finally gave me the opportunity to delve into the scientific field. I love it here and the professors are so wonderful—they always have time to answer any questions that I have.” Vicki Rothman can attest that the professors in the science department also admire Haapanen: “They tell me that Silja has just this incredible mind,” she says. “And she’s had such an interesting life—she could go anywhere and do whatever she chooses.”

     In the Fall of 2002, Haapanen will transfer to UCLA, where she will continue her studies in physics. And for 10 weeks during the preceding summer she will be working as an intern under the auspices of the Department of Energy’s Community College Initiative for Dr. Richard Klesko, the leader of the Berkeley Lab’s neutrino project. “Being a mentor and passing on knowledge is absolutely vital in any field, but especially in science,” says Klesko who did his undergraduate work at Stanford and his graduate work at the University of Washington. “I had mentors when I was a student and now it’s my job to pass my knowledge on to someone else. That’s part of the tradition of science.” Dr. Alan Poon, one of Klesko’s colleagues, adds that, “We need interaction with younger students. They ask questions about the fundamentals and make us re-examine our assumptions. They also bring a freshness to our work so we don’t get burned out, staring at computer screens and analyzing data.” The researchers at the Berkeley Lab are quick to point out that interns are given a lot of latitude and responsibility but are never left without guidance when and if it’s needed. After a week of training and orientation, interns are given an overall task for the summer and then turned loose. At the end of the internship, the students create posters and give presentations to the entire Lab about their research projects. Seminars and lectures on a wide variety of scientific topics are part of the regular fare at the Lab and barbecues and social gatherings are held to inculcate a sense of collegiality amongst the interns and their mentors. Interns are provided with airfare, housing and a stipend while they work at the Lab. “They are treated as professionals,” says Klesko, “and they have really contributed to the work we are doing at the Lab.” Amongst some of the projects previous community college interns have worked on are research into superconducting undulators, gamma ray spectroscopy, and the mapping and sequencing of mammalian genes. “This is a great way to have an introduction to what real science is all about,” says Klesko. “In a classroom, you have the text and you have the professor and they have the answers. Here we don’t know what the answers are. That’s what we’re working on: the answers to some of the basic questions of science.”

Derrik Asher     “Basically, I was a slacker in high school,” says Derrik Asher, one of the four SMC students who will participate this summer in the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program in Gaithersburg, Maryland. “I excelled in procrastination and just sort of skated by. But I was always interested in science, ever since I was four years old and spent hours staring at pictures of dinosaurs.” Asher credits an 11th-grade science teacher at Burlingame High School in the San Fernando Valley with encouraging him to pursue his interest in the sciences. “This teacher didn’t really have the answers to the questions I was asking,” says Asher, “but he told me I was asking the right questions and really encouraged me to continue with that pursuit.” Enrolling in Santa Monica College after graduating from Burlingame High, Asher finally took off in academia. “Dr. Anderson in SMC’s science department absolutely ignited a passion for chemistry in me,” says Asher. “He was a leading factor in my development.” Dr. Anderson also invited Asher and other interested students to sessions with the NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance), a super-conducting magnet that allows chemists to determine the structure of molecules—SMC is one of the few community colleges in the country that has such a device on its campus. Derrik Asher will be working with the Materials Sciences and Engineering Laboratory at NIST and will be focusing on polymer synthesis. “The whole experience at Santa Monica College has been just outstanding for me,” says Asher. “And my parents are ecstatic about the fellowship—they can’t believe how I’ve turned things around in such a short amount of time.”

     Founded in 1901 to support scientific endeavors in the United States and set standards for industry, NIST has provided basic research into a wide variety of products and technology, including ATM’s, mammograms, and semiconductors. A wing of the U.S. Commerce Department, NIST employs about 3,000 scientists and has a budget of $819 million per annum. This summer four out of the sixty-two students accepted into NIST’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program were from Santa Monica College; in the summer of 2001 SMC sent seven interns to the Program. Student interns are placed into one of seven labs that NIST operates at its Maryland campus: Building and Fire Research, Chemical Science and Technology, Electronics and Electrical Engineering, Information Technology, Manufacturing Engineering, Materials Science & Engineering, and Physics. The interns spend eight to twelve weeks at NIST, working alongside top-flight researchers; they are provided with airfare, housing and a stipend. Besides being the first community college in the country to send interns to NIST, SMC is also the first community college that officials from NIST ever visited. “They came out here and were completely amazed at our science facilities and absolutely impressed with our faculty,” says Marvin Martinez. “After working with our interns, they told me that our students were as well prepared as any students from any university in the country.”

Han Kyu Lee, Maria Kim, and Derrik Asher     While Asher is busy synthesizing polymers, SMC student Maria Kim will be spending her internship at NIST participating in research into optics and engineering. “Professor Richard Masada at Santa Monica College got me interested in this area,” says Kim, a Korean-American who grew up in Argentina. “He made me see optics and light in a whole new way. Now how we see the world is totally amazing to me.” Kim, who served as both vice president and president of Alpha Sigma Gamma, the honors society at SMC, has been accepted into UC Berkeley for Fall 2002 where she intends to continue with her studies of electrical engineering. “Maria’s a fire-cracker student,” says Vicki Rothman. “She’s very articulate, very bright and just a real go-getter.” Asher and Kim will be joined this summer at NIST by fellow SMC students Lilya Krivulina, who will be working the Networking division at the Information Technology Lab, and Han Kyu Lee, who was accepted into the Physics Lab.

Deepak Malhotra     An assortment of other SMC students are also scattering across the country this summer to participate in other internship programs: Jane Turner and Rudy Almeida will be working with the Department of Transportation in Los Angeles; Jessica Austin, Martha Perez, Todd Gonzalez and Roxanne Roy, winners of Dale Ride Scholarships, will be traveling to Washington, D.C.: Austin will intern in Congresswoman Diane Watson’s office; Roy will be working with House Minority Leader, Congressman Richard Gephardt, Gonzalez with the Democratic Party Steering Committee, and Perez with the Congressional Committee for Education and the Workforce. Last, but certainly not least, SMC student Maria Martinez will be interning with the Veterans Health Administration in Albany, New York. “Being a mentor to an intern is the most rewarding part of my job,” says Dr. William Stringfellow of the Berkeley Lab’s Earth Sciences Division and Center for Environmental Technology. “The students that come here as interns are very enthusiastic and their interest and excitement re-ignites my enthusiasm,” adds Dr. Stringfellow, who won an award for mentoring from the Department of Energy and will be working with SMC student Deepak Malhorta during the summer of 2002. “I had several mentors during my school years and they were absolutely essential to my development as a scientist. Hopefully, I can pass that on to my mentees and they will become mentors some day and pass it on again. There’s a real tradition to this and I am honored to be a part of it.” Santa Monica College is honored to be part of this tradition as well.

Summer 2002 Interns at National Labs & Offices

SMC student Gustavo Gonzalez with SMC professor Richard MasadaNIST

     Founded in 1901 to support scientific endeavors in the United States and set standards for industry, NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) provides basic research into a wide variety of products and technology and employs about 3,000 scientists with an annual budget of about $819 million. NIST is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Four SMC students were accepted for Summer 2002 internships:

• Maria Kim in semiconductors

• Lilya Krivulina in networking

• Derrik Asher in materials science

• Han Kyu Lee in physics

SMC Silja Haapanen and SMC physics professor Fay Hsu-Feng.LAWRENCE BERKELEY

     Ernest Orlando Lawrence founded this lab, the oldest of the national laboratories, in 1931, leading to a “Golden Age” of particle physics and revolutionary discoveries about the nature of the universe. Today, LBL conducts research in advanced materials, life sciences, energy efficiency, detectors and accelerators to serve America’s needs in technology and the environment. LBL is part of the U.S. Department of Energy. Four SMC students were accepted for Summer 2002 internships:

• Deepak Malhotra on the biodegradation of MTBE in groundwater

• Silja Haapanen in the nuclear science division

• Gustavo Gonzalez at the 88-inch cyclotron lab

• Ruzan Shahinian on analyzing airborne tracer gases


     Four SMC students were accepted into this SMC-sponsored political science and government program for Washington DC Summer 2002 internships:

• Jessica Austin with Congresswoman Diane Watson

• Roxanne Roy with Congressman Richard Gephardt

• Todd Gonzalez with the Democratic Party Steering Committee

• Martha Perez with the Congressional Committee for Education and the Workforce


     Other SMC students accepted for internships for Summer 2002 include:

• Jane Turner with the L.A. Department of Transportation

• Rudy Almeida also with the L.A. Department of Transportation

• Maria Martinez with the Veterans Health Administration in New York

• Jorge Galvez with the U.S. Maritime Administration in Virginia

Teamwork, Vigilance and Community

Safety is First at Santa Monica College

Chief Miller and members of SMC Police     First impressions are critical. For many visitors to Santa Monica College that first impression will likely come from one of the many helpful police and professional service officers on campus. “Our staff are the first point of contact for many,” explains SMC Police Chief Eileen Miller. “We stress the need for good customer service.”

     SMC’s 55-member police team includes 14 full-time sworn officers and more than 40 parking officers, dispatchers and staff. The team aims to not just keep an eye on safety, but to help anyone in need. “We have a great relationship with the campus community,” says Chief Miller. “Folks know they can always approach our officers and we will make time to talk to them.”

     Chief Miller and her department work to keep SMC a safe environment. By means of 24-hour patrols—on foot, on bikes, and by patrol car—and a newly upgraded video monitoring and dispatch center, the department works to keep a high profile. “Constant patrols reduce crime,” explains Miller.

     Beyond patrolling, the SMC Police Department also offers an escort service to meet students after class and walk them to their cars. The program has been operating almost 20 years now—the escorts are easy to spot with their bright yellow vests and two-way radios.

     The full-time Police Officers on the SMC force are all highly trained officers who are qualified to work at any police department across the country. Officer Gil Brooks, for example, is a 17-year veteran of the LA County Sheriff’s Department, who joined the SMC force almost 20 years ago. He enjoys the feeling that comes from helping protect the SMC family. “We are highly appreciated on campus by the professors, the staff and the students, and they let us know that,” Brooks says. “This a wonderful place to work. We’re a community here. Our job is to make it safe. And that’s a job that I love.”

     “We have a tremendous rapport with everyone on campus. The students, the professors, the staff—a lot of our job consists of building relationships and we feel that we’ve been very successful at that.”— Chief Eileen Miller