Students intern with EPA in Las Vegas through K-State grant


Three K-State students spent their summers by the strip in Las Vegas gaining real-world experience through internships for a government agency.

Brian Hanson, instructor in engineering extension, said K-State offers students internships at the Radiation and Indoor Environments National Laboratory in Las Vegas through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

He said the K-State Engineering Extension replied to a request for proposals from the EPA, and last summer the university received a grant and sent the first three student interns.

“The Engineering Extension has been working with EPA on a number of issues for several years,” he said. “This is just another component, and it helps strengthen the ties.”

According to the K-State Engineering and Extension Web site, the purpose of the program is to increase the number of students seeking environmental professions and to provide them with practical experience.

Hanson said each intern is assigned a full-time project, and the internships are available for students with a variety of majors, including psychology, communications and engineering.

Connor Whitney, junior in chemical engineering, was one of the first three interns with the program.

He said his project was to find a way for the radon-level information on the EPA database to be accessible through a graphical interphase.

Whitney said the EPA employees were available if he needed help on his projects, but he liked that there was a lot of freedom with the internship.

“I really enjoyed it,” he said. “The people were just amazing there, and I learned a lot.”

While he enjoyed the project and the experience, Whitney said the work he did is not what he would like to continue doing professionally.

He said he liked Las Vegas and living in the residence halls at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Kathryn Blackburn, senior in human resource management and psychology, had a project focusing on the EPA’s community outreach and had several tasks, including acting as a photojournalist for many of the laboratory’s activities.

Blackburn said she liked the location of the internship.

“We all lived at the university, and we were really close to the strip,” she said. “It was just an overall great summer, and it was with two guys that I would have otherwise never met.”

The third intern, Joseph Humphrey, senior in mechanical engineering, said he enjoyed his project, which involved developing a procedure to determine the amount of radium-226 in soil and waste samples.

“The people in Las Vegas and the support staff were helpful in making sure our wants were met, as well as the wants of the laboratory,” he said.

Hanson said K-State recruits the interns after the EPA sends the projects that are available. The paid positions are full time and are mostly for the summer, but there are some available in the spring.

He said the program possibly will last five years if the money is still available through the grant.