Nikki DeMass, a Savannah River Remediation college summer intern, has always had a love for science.
Growing up, DeMass wanted to be a high-school science teacher. At age 8, her father took her family to see a space shuttle launch from Cape Canaveral. Two years later, she witnessed a second launch.
“We learned about the shuttle launches and got as close to the takeoff site as we were allowed,” DeMass said. “It was an amazing sight I will always remember.”
It is no surprise that DeMass would choose to continue her scientific enrichment throughout college. An Aiken native and 2012 Aiken High School graduate, she is a rising sophomore at Clemson University, majoring in chemical engineering.
“I really enjoyed chemistry in high school,” DeMass said. “But after talking to both chemists and chemical engineers about what they do in their everyday jobs, I thought chemical engineering better suited my personality. I like problem-solving, working with people and seeing how every part of a large process comes together to accomplish a goal.”
DeMass is one of 43 college interns at SRR. She learned about SRR and this internship opportunity through engineers in the Aiken community. Interns were chosen based on relevant work experience, their year in school and their grade-point averages.
DeMass is assigned to Process Integration, a group involved in the cleaning and operational closure of Tank 12. Currently, the tank is undergoing an acid cleaning to remove more of the waste. One of DeMass’s responsibilities is to help monitor and consolidate some of the data as it is collected from the Tank 12 cleaning.
DeMass is managed and mentored by Carol Sherburne and Christie Sudduth. She attributes her positive experience thus far to her mentors’ efforts to make her feel like she is part of the team.
“My mentors were very welcoming to me from my first day out here,” said DeMass. “They have done an excellent job making me feel included and assigning work that gives me satisfaction and is useful to the projects.”
She believes her experience at SRR will be valuable in her future endeavors.
“This internship is giving me work experience that I will be able to use in a career,” said DeMass. “I also think it has helped me gain a better understanding of what I may want to do in the future and is allowing me to learn engineering concepts that will help me with my studies at Clemson.”