2019 Leonard D. Schaeffer Fellow Reflection: Logan Mendenhall

My name is Logan Mendenhall and I interned at the United States Department of Energy’s Waterpower Technologies Office (DOE-WPTO) for the summer in Washington, DC. The DOE is a cabinet-level department of the US Government responsible for US safety and policy concerning energy provision. WPTO pioneers research and development efforts in both marine hydrokinetic (MHK) and hydropower technologies to improve performance, lower cost, and ultimately support the US effort to sustainably meet its growing energy demand. The WPTO achieves this by working with national laboratories, industries, universities, and other federal agencies to research and develop opportunities through competitively selected, directly funded, and cost-shared projects. I was given two mentors on the Crosscutting Support Team from each power source of interest (hydropower and MHK) who provided me the opportunity to understand the challenges faced in the research and development process as well as the different methodology used to utilize and provide energy by both sources of power. 

I spent my first week in the office learning about the basis of hydropower and MHK energy provision to consumers. In addition, I familiarized myself with the vision and goals that the office desired to achieve within the foreseeable future and beyond. The environment of WPTO was relaxed with structure which allowed me to have autonomy over how I wanted to best utilize my time in this internship, as well as form decisions that would benefit my decision-making process when selecting future environments. A few days into the second week, I began to receive assignments that involved me attending and taking notes at meetings; organizing meetings; creating agendas for meetings; researching, cataloging, and summarizing materials to be utilized for later use; and creating PowerPoint presentations for briefings. I learned how to be an attentive notetaker as well as how to cater formats and information to better suit the occasion and/or the use of materials. Luckily, a portion of my course work and the materials I read on the first week were directly applicable to the material I was supposed to synthesize and summarize when completing my assignments. Therefore, I highly recommend to anyone interning in a department office whose work does not directly align with their field of study to research and gain a basic understanding of the work done in their assigned department office so they can be an effective intern and demonstrate a good work ethic. 

It was neat to learn about the ideas from the constituents of all the projects on creating and improving technologies to overcome dilemmas in the current methodology and design of harvesting and distribution of energy. I was able to gain a better understanding of the provision of energy by unlocking multiple corridors of projects that the Department of Energy allocates funding among the constituents of these projects. I am happy I applied for this internship because it provided the opportunity to better understand the planning and thought process from the government perspective on issues concerning the public.