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ORNL Undergraduate Research Profile: Jake Childs

Undergraduate determines career path through internship


ORNL Intern Jake Childs

Jake Childs, a participant in the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory researched bioderived materials for use in additive manufacturing.

Mechanical engineering student Jake Childs was introduced to 3-D printing in an undergraduate course at the University of Tennessee. When he joined the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the topic became his daily focus.

“I have always loved to tinker and build things, so the ability to expand 3-D printing research and capabilities at a national lab has been very exciting for me,” Childs said.

Alongside Erin Webb, Ph.D., in the Environmental Sciences Division, Childs researched bioderived materials like switchgrass and bamboo for use in additive manufacturing, a process in which digital designs are used to create an object in layers using a designated material.

“The goal of the research is to provide stronger and more sustainable material options for additive manufacturing and reduce the cost of biofuels by introducing a high-value coproduct in the biofuel supply chain,” Childs said.

He assisted with background research in composite materials used in additive manufacturing and performed a literature search in bioderived materials.

Childs appreciated the opportunity to hone his communication skills through science writing, collaborating in interdisciplinary teams, and developing presentations.

“I was able to present at a Bioenergy Workforce Development for Educators program for local high school teachers, and I designed a poster that was presented at the 2017 American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Annual International Meeting in Spokane, Washington,” Childs said. “Also, I was able to present in the undergraduate poster session at ORNL.”

After participating in the SULI program, Childs transferred to the Higher Education Research Experiences (HERE) program to continue his research at ORNL while completes his undergraduate studies at the University of Tennessee.

Ultimately, he hopes to pursue a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering and become a faculty member at a research university.

“The SULI program provided me with invaluable experience for research, and it solidified my choice in going to graduate school. It helped me understand possible career avenues in additive manufacturing,” Childs explained. “I would highly recommend this program to any STEM student interested in pursuing undergraduate research at a national lab.”

The SULI program is sponsored by the Department of Energy Office of Science’s, Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists (WDTS) and administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), managed by ORAU.