A TARGET conversation: Ketandu Chiedu and Lauren Biron

Lauren Biron and Ketandu Chiedu

Last year, rising high school senior Ketandu Chiedu from Walter Payton College Prep spent her six-week TARGET internship in the Fermilab Office of Communication. Working with her supervisor, Lauren Biron, she interviewed scientists working on the Fermilab-hosted Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment as part of the Faces of DUNE series. Mentor and mentee met up recently to discuss the internship program and what the future holds.

LB: Ketandu! It’s hard to believe the TARGET internship was over seven months ago! What have you been up to?

KC: I know! I miss being at the lab so much! It was such an amazing experience for me! Senior year has been a big roller coaster so far, but with many high points, thankfully! I’ve been continuing my time on the high school Math Team and Science Olympiad teams, which have been a lot of fun. One of my events for Science Olympiad is “Circuit Lab,” which is a really fun way to explore electricity and magnetism, as well as a great continuation of the circuitry work that I was exposed to through the TARGET Arduino workshop last summer! College applications were also very hectic, but thankfully, that’s mostly over now and I’m mostly just playing the waiting game with the last few schools I applied to. What have you been up to since the TARGET program?

LB: Oh, you know, the usual — telling the story of Fermilab and figuring out what we’d like our future TARGET interns to do!

KC: What did you like best about having a TARGET intern?

LB: It was really nice to have an enthusiastic extra person around during the summer rush. You (and all the TARGET interns I’ve supervised) were so eager and helpful. I felt like I could give you an assignment and a little bit of guidance, and you would take your curiosity and go figure out the rest. And it was really nice to be able to share cool things about the lab with you. I think after being here for a while you can occasionally forget how cool what we work on is, and sharing it with someone gave me perspective and a lot of joy.

I heard you got into Princeton, Yale, and MIT — have you settled on your college plans?

KC: I have not yet settled my plans. I’m waiting to hear back from three schools this month, and based on how those decisions go, I’ll make a choice! I’m very nervous to make a decision because committing to an institution for four years is so scary! And I’m well known by family and friends to be quite indecisive. But I’ll try my best to visit the schools, and do my research so that I can make an informed decision by May 1 (National Decision Day).

LB: It’s a hard choice! I waited until the very last day before declaring my university choice. I remember you were thinking about going into engineering of some sort, and you got a chance to talk with lots of different people working on the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment as part of our Faces of DUNE series. How did interviewing all those people influence what you’re thinking of studying?

KC: Yes, right now I’ve narrowed my majors down to aerospace engineering, electrical engineering, physics or computer science. My experience interning at Fermilab was definitely the greatest influencer of how I came to narrow down my major. The experience of getting to interact with so many awesome scientists working on DUNE was extremely invaluable and really helped me find potential paths for myself. I’m eternally grateful for my time at the lab! Speaking with so many people so passionate and dedicated to their research really helped spark my own passion for these fields, and I also got a lot of very valuable advice from everyone I spoke with. I was wondering, why did you agree to have a TARGET intern?

LB: A lot of reasons. For one, I knew we had this project that we could use extra hands to work on, which freed me up to do other work. I also think that the TARGET internship is a really great experience for those who get to attend, both for the internship and the classwork you do in the afternoon. But I know if we don’t have enough mentors, we can’t support as many students, so I wanted to help make it possible. And of course, it’s one sure way to get an invite to the annual TARGET Talent Show, the best event of the summer.

We’re seeking mentors for this summer’s TARGET interns. Are you interested? Contact Mario Lucero.

The TARGET program is a highly competitive, paid, six-week summer internship opportunity for Illinois high school sophomores and juniors who have a strong interest and demonstrated aptitude for physics, mathematics, computer science and engineering. The program’s design combines both work and hands-on experiential learning.