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NIU engineering students underrepresented in STEM get first chance to learn advance particle accelerator innovation

August 2, 2021

NIU engineering students may become the next generation of accelerator engineers

Photo Credit: Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

The College of Engineering and Engineering Technology (CEET) at NIU is proud to have been selected by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory as the initial school to participate in in the Accelerator Science Program to Increase Representation in Engineering (ASPIRE) Fellowship.

Designed to provide an immersive STEM learning experience to underrepresented engineering students, the program will kick off in the summer of 2022. It will create opportunities for students who are upper-level undergraduates and master’s-level engineering students who identify as Black, LatinX, Indigenous or as women with opportunities to learn about high energy physics. At graduation, the students will be poised to become the next generation of particle accelerator engineers and help meet the hiring needs for a diverse workforce in accelerator engineering.

ASPIRE builds upon a long history of NIU students from NIU’s engineering school working at Fermi and other top end research institutions including the Department of Energy, NASA, the National Institute of Health and the Argonne National Laboratory.

“ASPIRE is an excellent supplement to the university’s engineering program and an exceptional opportunity for students to work alongside internationally renowned engineers and scientists and be immersed in premiere research and projects,” said CEET Dean Donald Peterson, Ph.D. “We are thrilled to have this partnership and to be the first to offer this opportunity to NIU students.”

Participating students will work on Fermilab’s PIP-II accelerator project, a new, 215-meter-long particle accelerator that will enable the world’s most intense neutrino beam and is expected to power the next 50 years of particle accelerator research in the United States.

“ASPIRE fellows will participate in a lifetime experience. Together, we’ll build one of the world’s most powerful particle accelerators at Fermilab and develop the next generation of particle accelerator engineers. This is what we aspire to,” said Lia Merminga, PIP-II project director.

Fermilab will provide compensation, training, professional development, mentoring and career advancement by PIP-II engineers. Upon completion, the students will have the skills and network opportunities to secure post-graduate work or employment at top accelerator facilities, including Fermilab, or at one of the more than 30,000 particle accelerators in operation around the world.

Fermilab will also sponsor the students for one session at the U.S. Particle Accelerator School where they will experience an integrative curriculum that includes aspects of physics, computational science, electrical and mechanical engineering, and material science.

“Practical research experience is known to improve the persistence of students underrepresented in STEM disciplines and therefore the STEM workforce,” said Sandra Charles, Fermilab’s chief equity, diversity, and inclusion officer. “We are excited that the ASPIRE Fellowship will integrate engineering students into Fermilab’s research mission while providing a paid learning opportunity, mentorship, networking and academic support.”

The application period for the 15- to 18-month program is September 1 through December 1, 2021 for the first cohort starting in Summer 2022. More information on ASPIRE and the application can be found on the Fermilab Fellowship webpage.

About Fermilab
Fermilab is America’s premier national laboratory for particle physics and accelerator research. A U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science laboratory, Fermilab is located near Chicago, Illinois, and operated under contract by the Fermi Research Alliance LLC, a joint partnership between the University of Chicago and the Universities Research Association, Inc. Visit Fermilab’s website and follow Fermilab on Twitter at @Fermilab.