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ORNL interns taking advantage of chance of a lifetime

5:29 PM, Jul 26, 2011   |    comments
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A group of college students are in Oak Ridge this summer taking advantage of a chance of a lifetime. These young scientists may solve the environmental and energy problems facing the world today. 

While the environment the students work in may not look like a lab at ORNL, if you look closer the forest is wired with sensors, computers and sampling devices. 

The lab is all a part of a long term experiment to measure the effects of air pollution on the environment. "To see how trees would respond to elevated carbon dioxide concentrations that we expect to see in about 2050. We found that they grew more but contrary to what we expected they didn't make more wood, they made more roots." said ORNL Ecosystem Ecologist Colleen Iversen.

The student interns are helping to carry out the next phase of the experiment. They will kill off the trees to study what happened to the carbon in the ground. 

The interns are working toward careers in biology and environmental science. They said they are lucky to be with some of the world's leading scientists in the field. "Really getting to be a part of science not just learning it from a book," said Jonathan Brooks from Hope College. 

The ORNL Researchers are investing their time to train the next generation. "Teaching in a classroom you're instructing but when we're working with the students here it's more of a mentoring relationship. We're teaching them to be scientists," said Iversen.

ORNL officials also benefit from their contributions as well. "My manpower and my brain power. It takes a lot of field hands to accomplish an experiment of this scale," said Lauren Breza from the University of Tennessee. 

The interns hope what they learn will pay off. "I will be able to use this research and maybe apply it to a job in the future," said Claire Campbell from Furman University. 

The big payoff may be from the work these interns do in the future. There are over 100 student interns at ORNL this summer.

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