COD students learn through partnerships with Fermi, Argonne

Updated 2/8/2018 12:39 PM

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Enrico Fermi once said, "It is no good to try to stop knowledge from going forward. Ignorance is never better than knowledge."

Every educational institution understands this to be true and strives to provide students with an education that fuels their quest for knowledge. The exceptional teaching and learning taking place at College of DuPage extends far beyond the four walls of the classroom by giving students opportunities for hands-on experiences. This is accomplished by tapping into the many resources located in Community College District 502.


Having access to two of the U.S. Department of Energy's 17 national labs is a rarity for a community college, and yet College of DuPage is fortunate to have both Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory located within our boundaries.

These national labs, along with academic and industrial institutions, address the country's top research needs and play a key role in addressing long-term, complex assignments, which cover everything from clean energy to the advancement of particle physics.

Both labs help us understand the world in which we live. They employ internationally renowned scientists and staff to complete the many facets of their research projects. Argonne and Fermilab also recognize the value of working with educational institutions and provide internship and outreach programs for students of all ages.

These efforts engage minds eager to learn and develop future scientists who will one day be part of cutting-edge research.

College of DuPage is proud to have long-standing relationships with both Argonne and Fermilab. With an increased national focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), these partnerships are an essential component to our programs of study.

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Through internships and other opportunities, our students are gaining unique experiences at world-class facilities located right in our backyard. In turn, the labs benefit from students who are lending their skills and knowledge to the advancement of high-level projects.

These collaborations open doors and lead to new ideas and initiatives.

Former COD student Erna Gevondyan was an intern hired by Argonne as a co-op student and eventually as a full-time employee. While at COD, Erna was instrumental in establishing a collegiate branch of the Society of Women Engineers.

In her position at Argonne, she spearheaded an effort to create an internship for engineering students. Last summer, two COD students -- Josie Suter and Nicole Amon -- had the opportunity to work with the lab's Strategic Alliance for Global Energy Solutions Center in the Global Security Sciences Division. It was an experience both students said enhanced their engineering coursework.

Argonne is not alone in this distinction. Two years ago, Fermilab contacted Jose Alferez, manager of Veterans Student Services at College of DuPage, looking for student interns from the Automotive Technology and Electro-Mechanical Technology programs.


Alferez said Fermilab wanted veterans because of their discipline, loyalty, hard work and proven ability to do a job well. As a result, Fermilab launched the VetTech Internship Program, now entering its third year.

Opportunities for innovative partnerships extend beyond our credit programming. Tom Brady, director of the Homeland Security Training Institute at College of DuPage, has been working closely with Argonne in support of our new Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Program.

Argonne has provided key subject matter experts to help teach some of the new UAV classes.

"As an institution, Argonne has been a leader and at the forefront of new UAV technology within the federal government," Brady said. "COD and Argonne have the same goals in this area: to enhance UAV technology and education within public safety."

These are just a few examples of the impact that Argonne and Fermilab have had on our students, who proudly add these experiences to their resumes as they continue pursuing their education. Our students often cite opportunities for hands-on learning as key to their success at COD.

We are proud to have Argonne and Fermilab in our communities, and fortunate to have access to the scientific minds working there, which benefit all of the educational institutions fortunate enough to work with them. Community resources are an essential tool at College of DuPage and the gains for our students are many.

They develop their critical thinking and skills sets under the watchful tutelage of experts and, in return, provide their own ideas and energy that provide a win-win to all involved.

• Ann Rondeau is president of the College of DuPage. During the school year, her column appears monthly in Neighbor.