College of DuPage Veterans Gain Internship Experience at Fermilab
By Brian Kleemann
An innovative internship program is giving College of DuPage students who are veterans a chance to gain valuable work experience at Fermilab.
Through the Fermilab VetTech Internship program, COD students provide technical support in various departments at Fermilab. The inaugural six-week program began in July with four students: (above from left) Bryanna Pisciotto (Aurora), Erik Dopp (Roselle), Colin Simpson (Wheaton) and Joseph Harris (Lombard).
Jose Alferez, Manager of Veterans Student Services at COD, said Fermilab contacted him asking for students from the Automotive Technology and Electro-Mechanical Technology programs.
“Fermilab was looking specifically for veterans because of their discipline, loyalty, hard work and a proven ability to do the job,” he said. “They also were looking for veterans from two programs that you don’t necessarily associate with Fermilab.”
Pisciotto found the experience “amazing.” Having grown up in a small town in Wisconsin, she tried college for one year and then signed up for the Navy, where she worked as an electronics technician.
“When I joined, the Navy tested me and determined my strong suit was electronics, which was a surprise,” she said. “I worked with radar equipment on ships, and my specialty was micro repairs on pieces like circuit boards. It was cool to find out how my repairs saved the Navy $500,000.”
While on deployment, Pisciotto was researching colleges with dental hygiene programs. Her husband grew up in Illinois and knew about College of DuPage. However, because of the separate application process for the Dental Hygiene program and a desire to start school right away, she decided to pursue electrical engineering at COD.
It was through Alferez that Pisciotto learned about the VetTech program.
“He asked me if I was looking for a summer internship, and I said ‘yes.’ Because I’m not from the area, I wasn’t familiar with Fermilab. But once I read about it, I was ecstatic about the opportunity,” she said. “I worked with Joe Harris mainly on HVAC systems at the Proton Assembly Building under Bill Miner. He’s been there for more than 30 years and knew everything from the tools to the various machinery. Although HVAC is different from what I plan to do as a career, it was good having that experience.
“It was an amazing internship top to bottom. Everyone was very welcoming and helped us out with any questions we had.”
Due the project’s success, Alferez said both COD and Fermilab want to expand the internship next summer to include possibly 10 students from more academic disciplines.
“Although the project came together quickly, the results from this first group were rewarding for everyone involved,” he said. “Four-year schools don’t have an internship program like this for veterans. The VetTech program is helping fill in gaps in the workplace, and providing this experience gives our students needed skills to successfully gain employment.”
College of DuPage is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Serving approximately 27,000 students each term, College of DuPage is the largest public community college in the state of Illinois. The College grants nine associate degrees and offers more than 170 career and technical certificates in over 50 areas of study. In celebration of its 50th anniversary, College of DuPage will host a series of on- and off-campus events throughout the year to highlight the institution’s history and service to students and District 502 residents over the past half-century.
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