National lab internship immerses student in real-world research

Jul 13, 2020
Alexis Downing

Computer engineering major Alexis Downing is completing a remote summer internship with Argonne National Laboratory.

The work senior Alexis Downing is doing as an intern with Argonne National Laboratory, a world-class science and engineering research center, will pave the way for a successful future in research.

Downing is completing a remote Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) with the national lab located in Lemont, Illinois. She is working on its Muon g-2 experiment, which is measuring the anomalous magnetic movement of the muon, a heavy cousin of the electron.

“Imagine if you have a giant magnetic ring, but inside of this ring is split up by 72 different stations,” the computer engineering major said. 

Downing and the team of researchers are working to determine how the magnetic field drift is behaving as a trolley piece outfitted with sensors travels between stations.

“We are adding data and experimenting on how to find where the sensor locations are within the field and the field behavior as well,” said Downing, from Mount Dora, Florida. “I am using machine learning to actually pinpoint where the fixed posts are.”

Downing said she sought out an internship with Argonne Labs after receiving advice from a panelist at a conference of the National Society for Black Engineers during her junior year. The person recommended pursuing work with a national lab in order to gain strong experience in research and achieve her career goals.

The internship, however, is delivering a different experience than she initially expected.

“It’s Argonne’s first time doing internships remotely,” said Downing, a graduate of the Orange County Virtual School. “I heard virtual internships are harder, but I’ve never done one before – which will be somewhat different compared to virtual school. But I’m learning well and see everything as going good.”

She said her education at Florida Polytechnic University in machine intelligence, robotics, and machine learning coupled with her internship will provide a strong foundation for her post-graduation plans of pursuing a PhD and a career in research.

“At the end of the day, I just want to learn and succeed,” she said.


Lydia Guzman
Director of Communications