Nuclear Energy Lab Co-op Meets Student's Wish List

By: Diana Riggs
Date: February 16, 2018

Not every student can say they learned to snowboard and visited the original nuclear reactor on their co-op, but Sean Kane can.

A view of a snowy, tree-lined ski slope on a bright day, taken from a point of view that shows the photographer's feet in a snowboard. The skies are blue with clouds and there is only one other person on the slope.

Kane used free time during his co-op to learn to snowboard and embrace the outdoor culture of the West.

Third-year University of Cincinnati (UC) electrical engineering student Sean Kane hit all three items on his cooperative education (co-op) wish list when he accepted an offer to work at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in Spring 2017.

The Cleveland native was placed in the Material and Fuels Complex (MFC) at INL, a site that fulfilled his top three co-op goals:

  1. Research in alternative energy
  2.  Experience at a research-first facility
  3. Travel to a new locale

Eager to explore how his electrical engineering studies could apply to nuclear research, Kane was energized by the lab’s collaborative culture. He most enjoyed meeting different researchers and learning practical applications of their specific areas of expertise.

“You ask a question and then you have three more. It never ends, but it was a great learning experience,” Kane explained.

Kane was assigned to the facilities branch of the MFC, where engineers manage power resources and ensure that all research equipment functions optimally. His duties included creating power distribution models and testing equipment for safety and performance.

Work at the U.S. Department of Energy’s leading center for nuclear research and development demands intense focus. But INL’s rigorous requirements and intentionally remote location did not limit Kane. INL’s four-day work week allowed him to use long weekends to visit stunning resorts like Jackson Hole, Big Sky and Grand Targhee, where he learned to snowboard and ski.

“It was definitely eye-opening to see what I could do and where I could be in the future,” Kane stated.

Sean Kane, UC student, is smiling and standing in front of the Idaho National Laboratory sign. It is snowy outside and Sean is wearing athletic wear.

Sean Kane, electrical engineering student, explored career paths at INL.

Kane is not afraid of a little exploration; he entered the college undecided on his engineering focus. The College of Engineering and Applied Science’s (CEAS) Freshman Engineering Program gave him time to learn about career paths and research opportunities. He said the decision on electrical engineering was never an “’ah-ha moment’ as much as there was just a gradual build.”

Kane continues to build toward a bright future. He plans to graduate from the University of Cincinnati with both a Bachelor and Master of Science in electrical engineering as part of the CEAS Accelerated Engineering Degree (ACCEND) program’s five-year plan.

His co-op position at INL is now available to future Bearcats, thanks to the CEAS alumni network. Kane was connected with the laboratory by his co-op advisor, assistant professor Chris Tonnis. She coordinated the co-op position with the MFC’s associate lab director, Ron Crone, a CEAS alumnus who graduated in 1989 with a degree in nuclear engineering.

Current CEAS students who would like help finding a co-op that completes their wish list can contact the Division of Experience-Based & Career Education at (513) 556-2667 or careereducation@uc.edu.

Future engineering students interested in learning more about UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science can contact undergraduate admissions at (513) 556-5417 or ceas.ug@uc.edu.