FIU environmental engineering student Christine Wipfli is experiencing the wonders of Austria first-hand after being selected for a prestigious, one-year internship from the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) at its headquarters in Vienna.
The IAEA is an international organization that encourages the peaceful use of nuclear energy and technology, in addition to promoting nuclear safety and security worldwide.
As part of her internship, which runs through March 2017, Wipfli is focusing on environmental remediation (cleanup), ensuring various member states have the necessary resources for the successful implementation of environmental remediation projects in their respective countries.
Wipfli, a Department of Energy Fellow associated with FIU’s Applied Research Center (ARC), credits her involvement with ARC in preparing her for the IAEA internship program.
“Thanks to the work I am doing at ARC, I had a strong foundation to begin understanding the application of these remediation initiatives on a global scale,” she said.
Wipfli’s work at ARC pertains to the Savannah River Site (SRS), a former nuclear weapons production facility at the South Carolina and Georgia border. Wipfli is part of a team of STEM students, professional scientists and engineers investigating various techniques and strategies to address the area’s soil and groundwater affected by radionuclide contamination.
“The exciting part about working at ARC is the opportunity to work with knowledgeable colleagues and mentors on developing solutions to very complex problems and knowing that, if implemented, the solutions can help reduce the risk of exposure to these contaminants thereby keeping nearby populations and environments safe,” she said.
Wipfli, who also has an undergraduate degree in communications, first became interested in environmental issues and technology while living in Brazil. During her time abroad, she had the opportunity to write various articles concerning environmental issues on national and global scales for an online news website based in Rio de Janiero. Sparked with the desire to do more than just write about these issues, she returned to the United States to pursue a degree in environmental engineering at FIU.
“Christine is hard working, smart, driven and very concerned about environmental issues,” said Leonel E. Lagos, director of research at FIU’s Applied Research Center. Lagos is principal investigator of the DOE-FIU Cooperative Agreement and director of the DOE Fellows program.
The Applied Research Center focuses on solving real-world problems through multidisciplinary research collaborations. This work, pertaining to numerous Department of Energy sites across the country, provides the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management with research support in the areas of environmental remediation, as well as decontamination and decommissioning, while promoting workforce development for FIU STEM students.
Upon her return to FIU next March, Wipfli will complete the last year in her program towards obtaining a bachelor of science degree in environmental engineering, with plans to complete a subsequent master’s degree in engineering management while continuing to gain practical experience in her field.