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Graduate Intern – Biomass Upcycling – Chemist/Mechanical Engineer/Civil Engineer

The Building Thermal Energy Science Group of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is seeking a graduate intern. NREL is the nation's primary laboratory for research, development, and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. This position will support research and development at NREL for bio-based, carbon-negative building materials and their relation to upcycling waste products. We are synthesizing these materials and determining mechanical properties.

The successful candidate should have a strong background in either:

1. Polymer synthesis and characterization

2. An understanding of heat and mass transfer, and/or

3. Familiarity with handling concrete

The candidate will contribute to new research in a lignin-based sustainable building materials that are an effective alternative to concrete. The candidate is expected to demonstrate good communication skills and the ability to document the research in the form of journal articles and presentations.

Specific Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Perform chemical modifications and characterization of lignin to form high-strength materials.
  • Characterize the chemical and thermal properties of these materials using tools like nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR), differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), thermo-gravimetric analysis (TGA), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR).
  •  Characterize the mechanical properties using tools like dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA), tensile testing, 3-point bending testing, freeze-thaw testing, accelerated UV/heat/moisture aging tests, and compression strength testing.
  • Scale up synthesis and troubleshoot manufacturing issues.
  • Assist in project management, including writing reports, journal articles, and presentations for program review or conferences.

The candidate will get the opportunity to be involved in detailed experimental research and linking the knowledge to several other aspects of systems engineering. Moreover, the candidate will be able to learn different techniques and measurement equipment utilized for thermal, mass transfer, mechanical, and chemical measurements.

We do not expect a candidate to hold all the skills listed above but the candidate should illustrate the eagerness to learn and potential for professional growth.

This will be an onsite, 6-month internship, with the possibility of extension.

Basic Qualifications

Must be enrolled as a full-time student in a Bachelor's, Master's or PhD degree program, or graduated in the past 12 months from an accredited institution. Candidates who have earned a degree may work for a period not to exceed 12 months. Must have a minimum of a 3.0 cumulative grade point average. 

Please Note: 
•You will need to upload official or unofficial school transcripts as part of the application process.
•If selected for position, a letter of recommendation will be required as part of the hiring process.

* Must meet educational requirements prior to employment start date.

Additional Required Qualifications

  • Candidate should have a strong aptitude to learn and explore the field needed for development, to be motivated and dedicated, and to deliver research results on time and on budget.
  • Excellent interpersonal, communication, and documentation skills.

Preferred Qualifications

The ideal candidate will have several or all of the following:

  • Strong background in polymer synthesis, lignin chemistry, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, and/or a related field
  • Experience in experimental work synthesizing lignin and/or polymer networks and completing their characterization.
  • Demonstrated research capability and creativity to solve challenging problems, as well as the ability to work well in a team.
  • Experience with concrete characterization tools (e.g. freeze-thaw chambers, rheometers)