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Paris Cornwell

Internship advances research in materials technology

Paris Cornwell

Paris Cornwell, an intern with ORNL’s Laboratory Technology Program, uses a scan arm with a laser probe attachment to map samples related to vehicle technology and measure dimensions, tolerances and deviations in parts produced by additive manufacturing. Click image to enlarge.

Paris Cornwell’s participation in the Laboratory Technology Program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory meant trading his pizza delivery job for an opportunity to “deliver” material structure analysis that will make a future delivery person’s vehicle safer and more fuel efficient.

The Laboratory Technology program at ORNL, administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, which is managed by Oak Ridge Associated Universities, provides hands-on technical training opportunities for qualified undergraduate students and recent associate and baccalaureate graduates. The goal is to prepare them to become part of ORNL’s future workforce in areas of critical need.

Cornwell, an undergraduate student who is pursuing a degree in mechanical and manufacturing engineering technology at Pellissippi State Community College, assists senior level technicians and research staff in the Materials Science and Technology Division. One of his main functions is the daily operation of the Neutron Residual Stress Facility 2 at the High Flux Isotope Reactor, which focuses on the mapping of residual stresses. “I assist with research that mainly focuses on materials science related to vehicle technology, specifically residual stress measurements and mechanical testing. Our purpose is to advance and understand material science and assist U.S. industry with its technology and problems,” he said.

From their analyses, Cornwell and his mentor gain valuable insight into the behavior of a manufactured material. For example, a material’s strength and fatigue life may be characterized by fabricating a rod specimen and placing it under a tensile load, and in the case of fatigue, this load will be cycled. When the sample fails, its strength and/or fatigue behavior can be evaluated. “This information provides engineers with materials data to design vehicles we may use tomorrow,” said Cornwell.

One such example is the analysis conducted for the lithium-ion batteries used to power electric vehicles, like the Chevrolet Volt. “Using the neutron residual stress instrument, we measured stresses in the Chevy Volt’s lithium-ion batteries and also measured some thermoelectric modules for use in the braking systems of some hybrid and electric vehicles,” Cornwell said.

Additionally, he spends time in the lab assisting his mentor with sample mounting and data collection and also prepares computer-aided drawings, or CAD. Cornwell utilizes CAD in many areas of his internship. For example, CAD allowed him to design a mounting apparatus for better viewing of unique samples so the thermal neutron beam can “see” the area in which to collect data.

Cornwell, who served six years in the United States Marine Corps, wanted to find an opportunity to continue his education and also apply his classroom knowledge to real-world experience. The Laboratory Technology Program at ORNL provided both.

“The full-time position came as a huge financial and emotional support for my wife and me. Just before I received the job, I learned my wife was pregnant with our first child,” Cornwell said. “Today my son is 15 months old, we have a new house, and I look forward to being at work every day.”

Cornwell describes his internship experience in the Laboratory Technology Program at ORNL as priceless and recommends this learning opportunity to any student looking for full- or part-time work. “I’m gaining professional knowledge in my preferred field of study and working with talented professionals every day,” he said. “Now I will have a knowledge and skill base second to nonebecause I had the opportunity to work at one of the world’s top research centers.”

After completing his internship, Cornwell hopes to pursue a career at ORNL, utilizing the skills and experience that he’s acquired during his training. To further his education, he plans to pursue a master’s degree in materials science and engineering.