Sooner turns ambassador for U.S. Department of Energy
An engineering graduate student has been selected to serve as OU’s first student ambassador for the Department of Energy and the first representative from the Southwest region of the United States.
Christella Chavez, a West Point graduate, applied and was accepted as a doctoral student at OU in 2008 after the plant where she worked for 10 years closed.
While pursuing her degree, Chavez applied for an internship with the National Nuclear Security Administration, a U.S. Department of Energy program, at the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico for the summer.
Chavez worked in New Mexico for 15 weeks doing doctoral research in telecommunications engineering disaster recovery.
She helped build a computational model for assessing and rebuilding the telecommunications infrastructure if a major disaster interrupts operations.
From there, she was encouraged to apply as a student ambassador for the Department of Energy.
In August, Chavez was sent to Washington, D.C. to tour headquarters and receive training for the position.
Chavez said engineering is not the only discipline the Department of Energy is looking for in researchers or future employees and ambassadors.
“I was surprised that people from all disciplines were there, including law, finance, business, engineering, psychology, library science, geospatial, political science ... literally all disciplines!” Chavez said.
And there are many opportunities for all students, she said.
There are more than 3,000 students at the Los Alamos lab alone, and eight labs across the country. This doesn’t include power energy sources and headquarter offices in Washington, D.C.
Chavez has won the approval of many professors such as Pramode Verma, adviser and director of telecommunications and professor in the OU School of Electrical and Computer Engineering in Tulsa.
“[Chavez] brings a rich and diversified real-life experience, having held positions with the U.S. military, Texas Instruments, Raytheon and the Ford Motor Company,” Verma said. “Chriss is a natural leader, a team player and enthusiastic about her work at [OU].”
Upon graduating with her doctorate, Chavez said she plans to work for the Department of Energy.
“[The research last summer] was a life-changing experience,” she said.
Students interested in opportunities with the Department of Energy can email Christella Chavez with their name, discipline, graduating year and email address to be added to the department’s job database. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org