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Lauren Williams studied abroad in Greece to learn about the ethics of engineering, one of several high-impact experiences she had while at Texas A&M. | Image: Courtesy of Lauren Williams

Opportunities to gain relevant, directly applicable work experience while in school are invaluable. For Lauren Williams, a former student in the Department of Nuclear Engineering at Texas A&M University, high-impact experiences helped lead her to her current position as a nuclear fuel analysis engineer at General Electric.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission internship

Before graduating in the fall of 2020, Williams was hired by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in the division of advanced reactors and nonpower production and utilization facilities as a nuclear engineering intern.

While COVID-19 prevented Williams from being stationed in Washington, D.C., she still gained valuable experience virtually.

Her initial assignment was to assist in an audit of The University of Texas’ research reactor license renewal process. Responsibilities included understanding the problem areas, identifying gaps in the license amendment and then developing proposed resolutions to those issues to effectively amend the license application.

Utilizing her year of experience from working on the Texas A&M research reactor, Williams took the initiative to propose a new project idea.

"I have always been interested in probabilistic risk analysis (PRA) for nuclear plants because my grandfather is a nuclear engineer and has worked with PRA his entire career," said Williams. "I recognized that working solely on research reactors would not be a sufficient career path for me since I was familiar with that work from my own direct experience at the Texas A&M research reactor."

Williams’ idea was to develop a PRA framework for an advanced reactor. With support from her NRC mentor, she was able to pursue the project and gained highly applicable experience.

“The experience was enlightening for me as I became more familiar with PRA methods and the level of technical detail required to develop a technically acceptable analysis,” said Williams.

Framatome internship

During her time at Texas A&M, Williams was also able to work with Framatome as a neutronics

engineering intern in the branch of core design. She was able to assist with designing a reactor core for a commercial nuclear power plant that could operate on a 24-month cycle with four less fresh fuel bundles.

“I have always enjoyed problem solving and I was able to exercise those skills in this job,” said Williams.

Williams presented her findings to her supervisor and team at the end of the internship and successfully removed four fresh fuel bundles to reduce reload costs for the plant.

Looking ahead

After graduating in December, Williams was offered a full-time position at General Electric as a nuclear fuel analysis engineer. She cites these and other high-impact experiences, such as study abroad in Greece, as crucial during her time at Texas A&M.

“Having both of these internships has helped me with my class work at Texas A&M, and has helped me understand where and what I would like my career to be in the nuclear industry,” said Williams.