Hampton Roads Engineering Career Days Event Remains Virtual, Offers a Cyber Challenge, “Phun Physics” and STEM Career Advice

  • Engineering Career Day with Jefferson Lab logo and date: February 24, 2022

Jefferson Lab prepares to virtually host high school students in an annual event that recognizes and celebrates engineers

NEWPORT NEWS, VA – The contributions engineers make to society should never be discounted — from building infrastructure to a host of technologies that advance every science and our understanding of the universe. On Feb. 24, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility is joining local partners once again to celebrate all things engineering. The lab is hosting Engineering Career Days, an annual observance designed for high school students and their teachers in Hampton Roads.

It is sponsored by the Peninsula Engineers Council (PEC), and NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton and Newport News Shipbuilding are co-collaborators for the event. The free, one-day event is virtual for the second consecutive year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While it is designed for high school students who are seeking more information on possible careers, it is open to all who are interested in learning more about engineering.

Students will be introduced to opportunities in engineering, have a chance to hear from engineers about their work and how they chose their fields, watch a fast-paced “Phun with Physics” demonstration by Lawrence Weinstein, a physics professor at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, and compete in a team cyber challenge offered by DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

“The goal is to expose students to engineering — what engineering is and the different disciplines,” said Carol McKisson, a staff member in the lab’s Science Education team and the Engineering Career Days lead.

An important element, she said, is letting students know there’s no one single path to an engineering career.

“Some engineers didn’t even know they wanted to be an engineer until they went to college,” McKisson said. “For instance, some of them started off as physicists and changed their path.”

One engineer shared with her recently that he didn’t do well in high school. After earning his diploma, joined the Navy.

“That got him focused on trying new things and built up his confidence,” McKisson said.

After serving for 21 years, the veteran pursued a bachelor of science degree in computer networks and cybersecurity from the University of Maryland and today is a cyber engineer at Newport News Shipbuilding.

Engineering Career Days

The Career Days agenda includes a morning session from 9-11:15 a.m. with a keynote speaker, the physics demonstration and a panel of engineers representing each host organization. Students may tune in to the event here. The afternoon session from 12:30-2 p.m. consists of the cyber challenge and requires pre-registration.

This year’s keynote speaker is Renuka Rajput-Ghoshal, a senior staff engineer in Jefferson Lab’s Magnet group. Magnets are a critical part of the lab’s Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF). They guide the particle beam at nearly the speed of light through CEBAF.

Born in a small village in India, Rajput-Ghoshal credits her parents for her career success by encouraging her mathematics abilities and her natural curiosity as a child. Today, she encourages other girls — as well as boys — to enter STEM fields, to approach science and engineering with an open mind and to never stop learning. She’s been with Jefferson Lab since 2013.

Weinstein’s physics demonstration is geared to capture and engage young minds. It starts with his sitting safely on a seat of 300 sharp nails. Then, he conducts short, often mind-bending experiments involving water, an air cannon, balloons, liquid nitrogen, an infrared camera, a propane torch and everyday objects to illustrate simple physics concepts.

Panelists include Jonathan Creel, head of Jefferson Lab’s Cryogenics Engineering and Operations department; Jesse Quinlan, a senior aerospace engineer at NASA Langley and adjunct professor at the University of Virginia; and Tim Herbin, a cyber event management analyst at Newport News Shipbuilding.

Also appearing is Robin Hunt, a research aerospace engineer at NASA Langley and recipient of the PEC’s 2022 Doug Ensor Award. This award recognizes the contributions, significant technical accomplishments and community involvement of  engineers in the early phase of their career.

The cyber challenge is open to high school teams of 3-5 students, with no limit to the number of teams a school may enter. High schools throughout Hampton Roads are participating.

Nansemond River High School in Suffolk is setting a new example this year, McKisson said, as it plans to gather 50-60 students in their assigned teams to compete.

Jefferson Lab has participated in Engineering Career Days since 2015. It’s part of National Engineers Week, begun in 1951 by the National Society of Professional Engineers.

By tradition, Engineers Week runs the same week as George Washington’s birthday. Washington appointed the first engineering officers of the Army during the Revolution — forerunners of the modern Army Corps of Engineers. Until the pandemic struck, Engineering Career Days consisted of two days of in-person field trips in which local students were bused to events at Newport News Shipbuilding.

For more information, resources and downloadable swag, visit:  https://www.nasa.gov/stem/engineering-career-days.

To register for the cyber challenge, visit: https://education.jlab.org/cyber-challenge.

For more information, contact McKisson at carolm@jlab.org.

By Tamara Dietrich

Contact: Kandice Carter, Jefferson Lab Communications Office, 757-269-7263, kcarter@jlab.org


Jefferson Science Associates, LLC, manages and operates the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, or Jefferson Lab, for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. JSA is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Southeastern Universities Research Association, Inc. (SURA).

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science