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Students and Companies Benefit from NSF STEP Internships

September 17, 2012

Students and Companies Benefit from NSF STEP Internships 

bill miera and aaron griegoCEO Bill Miera (left) is a big fan of hiring interns for his company, Fiore Industries, a provider of high-technology services and products fo research and commercial applications. Miera said that one of his interns is now employed at the Air Force Research Laboratory and is a Fiore customer. “It’s critical for students to get experience in the real world,” he says. “And the intern can actually help us make progress on our projects.”

Fiore’s 2012 summer intern Aaron Griego(right), did just that. A student in electrical engineering, Griego worked on an industrial robot arm, replacing parts and solving software programs.  “It was hands-on experience solving problems not found in a book or classroom,” reports Griego. “At job fairs, the big companies are the ones you see recruiting but I really enjoyed getting the experience of working for a smaller local company.”

Miera says that small high tech companies in the Albuquerque area could benefit from internships. “I’ve heard many people say that they had no idea about the range of technical capabilities here in this town,” he adds. “Internships are a way to keep top-notch students in town and help local businesses find good employees.”

During the summer, 46 UNM Engineering students participated in paid 2-month internships through STEP.  Student at Los Alamos National Laboratories worked on projects ranging from researching less expensive ways to desalinate water, to building data-fitting software to find parameter values for cell signaling systems, to reworking  3-D modeling software to recreate a shell for computing high intensity physics calculations.  They also built, wired, configured and operated computer clusters.

One student worked with a group developing a tomographical technique to image and identify unknown materials.  Chemical and nuclear engineering major Candace Spore says one use of muon tomography is imaging the damaged reactor core at Fukushiama Daiichi. 

Students at UNM’s Configurable Space Microsystems & Innovations Center (COSMIAC) used the summer to develop a launch and recovery system for high altitude helium balloons with equipment donated by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratories.  They also designed and built an adapter AFRL can use to make better use of space when launching small satellites. 

The internships were part of the NSF-funded Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Talent Expansion Program (STEP), which offers mentoring, conference participation, career development and paid internships to freshmen and sophomores. The program will again furnish interns to local companies in summer 2013 and is looking for businesses who want to participate.

Contact Sue Buffington at or (505)277.5383.

Cheryl Chambellan and Jacy Bitsoie

Cheryl Chambellan(l) is a mechanical engineering major at NMSU and Jacy Bitsoie is a civil engineering major at UNM. They ran the COSMIAC balloon program throughout the summer.