With three years of college credit in athletics and countless hours of tennis practice under his belt, Ronnie Angello opted for the only profession that made sense: making sure that particle accelerators are up to snuff.
Angello is controls network technologist at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. His duties include upgrading equipment and the upkeep of the lab's accelerator controls, responsibilities that the 24-year-old first gained during an internship at the center.
At the time, though, Angello was more interested in tennis than technology. "I was never even able to manage my own PC," he said.
Angello is one of a handful of workers who came to the center after participating in its summer honors internship program. The program selects high school students and allows them to work with researchers as they set up and prepare for experiments.
For Angello, the experience meant preparing for a new life.
"I basically came in with no experience," he said. "At the time, I wasn't into it."
Angello's internship started in 1994 while he was a junior at York High School, a move prompted by a need for a job more than anything.
The internship was his first exposure to computer and electrical engineering, allowing him to work with fiber optics and other equipment.
Still, when Angello entered college, his interest was more in Wimbledon than wiring. He spent much of his time playing tennis for Christopher Newport University's team, and that sports enthusiasm was clear from the start, said Brad Cumbia, accelerator network administrator.
"He was pretty good coming straight out of high school, but he was always talking about sports," Cumbia said. "He was a typical high school teenager when he got here, but the more he worked, the more focused he got on his career."
Angello was majoring in fitness management, but his interests changed as he continued working for the accelerator part time.
"When I got here and saw what it was like, I started getting interested in it more and more," he said.
That was Angello's breaking point with tennis. "I was three years into" his major, he said. "I dropped all that."
Angello soon earned his associate's degree in information-systems technology from Thomas Nelson Community College. During that time, he continued working part time for the lab. In February, he was hired full time.
"I get up and look forward to coming to work every day," he said. "I learn new stuff every day."
His duties likely won't stop there though.
Angello said his sights were set on either earning a computer or electrical engineering bachelor's degree or working for a Cisco System certification. The certification would allow him to assume more responsibilities with the accelerator's systems.
He said that facility officials had encouraged him to pursue either avenue but that the choice was easy.
"Most of the stuff I'd be learning, I'm learning enough here," he said. "I'd feel like I'm cheating myself going and sitting in a classroom."
Submitted: Saturday, July 14, 2001 - 11:00pm