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Sustainability News

LightWorks News

September 7, 2017

Brianna Fornes, an undergraduate at Arizona State University, was recently awarded Best Technical Presentation by the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). This award highlights her work during a summer internship at Idaho National Laboratory. The goal of her project was to improve preservation of algal biomass by optimizing lactic acid fermentation. This is because algae biomass production varies throughout the year, making it necessary to store biomass until it can be processed.

“Interning at the INL was an inspiring experience. I was lucky enough to be working alongside some of the country's brightest scientists, who made themselves available to me for direction and advice," Fornes says of her achievement. "It was an honor to have the opportunity to make a contribution to the fantastic work being done at INL.

"I was already so proud to represent AzCATI and ERM and share the accomplishments we had achieved over the summer, so winning was just the cherry on top. Considering that I was one of very few undergraduates in the competition, being selected for best technical presentation solidified to me how much I had learned and grown during my time in Idaho. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience.”

INL is the nation’s lead laboratory for nuclear energy research, development, demonstration and deployment. It is engaged in the mission of ensuring the nation’s energy security with safe, competitive and sustainable energy systems, as well as unique national and homeland security capabilities. So far in 2017, INL has had 337 interns from 81 universities and 14 countries. Competition for these spots is fierce, with an average of 1,900 applicants per year.

Brad Wahlen, Research Scientist at the Idaho National Laboratory, said about Fornes, “We gave her an ambitious project to complete in the short time that she was at INL. She got up to speed really quickly and was running her project independently within a couple of weeks. At the conclusion of her internship, Bri had acquired sound data that will inform future experiments and will impact future funding proposals. If there are more students like Bri at ASU, please send them our way."

Currently, Fornes is pursuing her degree in Environmental Engineering with minors in Humanitarian Engineering and Sustainability at Arizona State University. Her ambition is to work for an environmentally conscious company where she can apply her technical and leadership skills.

According to Lynn Wendt, Research Scientist at Idaho National Laboratory, “Bri’s success during her internship at INL was primarily due to her self-motivation to learn, tackle a research problem, and invest herself in every step of the process from experimentation to data analysis and summarizing the results. “

Before the internship at INL, Fornes was a student worker AzCATI. There she worked on the Zivo Biosciences project, cultivating Zivo’s proprietary strain of filamentous algae and concentrating the culture supernatant. The biomass created through this project was used in cow feed trials, and the concentrate was administered intravenously to cows in an attempt to cure bovine mastitis.

Thomas Dempster, Research Professor and AZCATI Laboratory Manager, said, “When INL asked if I could recommend an ASU student for its internship program, Brianna immediately came to mind. Bri has exhibited self-motivation and a great work ethic as a student worker at AzCATI.

"I am pleased, but not surprised, with the outcome of Brianna’s internship. She is a bright and ambitious student that will make incredible contributions to science and engineering.”

Fornes has been invited to present her research at the Arizona-Nevada Academy of Science Annual Meeting in April 2018.