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Joe Lake

One-Time Student Intern has ‘Second Life’ as ORNL Mentor

Joe Lake

Joe Lake, a full-time software engineer for Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Computational Science and Engineering Division, is doing his part to help foster the next generation of scientists. As a former participant of both the ORISE-administered DOE Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships (SULI) and Higher Education Research Experiences (HERE) programs, Lake is currently co-mentoring his fourth student.

As a former participant of both the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships (SULI) and Higher Education Research Experiences (HERE) programs offered at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Joe Lake can appreciate the wisdom and guidance of a mentor. That’s why even as a full-time software engineer with ORNL’s Computational Sciences and Engineering Division, Lake still finds time to return the gift of mentorship.

It was 2004 when Lake began his student internship with SULI by using detailed engineering drawings to make extremely accurate virtual models of industrial facilities. Later, while participating in SULI and continuing his research through HERE, Lake focused his talents to use computer code as a defensive analysis tool for determining facility vulnerability.

Gaining real-world experience was obviously the end-goal of Lake’s internships, but having the opportunity to develop solutions to pressing problems while also working alongside international experts was invaluable. Both DOE's SULI and HERE—which are administered for ORNL by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education—proved to be imperative to Lake’s professional career. The experience and connections ultimately led to a full-time position at ORNL where he continues his research while also cultivating the next generation of scientists.

Currently co-mentoring his fourth student, Lake has combined his research with virtual models and facility vulnerability and applied the two concepts to a more well-known virtual social environment—Second Life.

“The Virtual Interactive Scenario Environment uses technology similar to Second Life as part of a threat-anticipation initiative where a variety of threat scenarios are executed in a virtual world, essentially allowing the exploration of multiple approaches to intelligence gathering and information dissemination,” said Lake. “The technology behind Second Life allows the scenarios to be run by multiple people, each with their own unique solution. It’s an opportunity to think outside the box and come up with novel approaches to problems that analysts and researchers might not yet conceive.”

Rachel Bystricky, an undergraduate from the University of Alabama and a participant in the HERE program, is Lake’s current student. She has also been instrumental with helping create and maintain the virtual environment and comments that working with Lake during the summer months has been a worthwhile experience.

“My internship experience with Joe has been very enjoyable,” said Bystricky. “He’s easy to communicate with and he seems more approachable and eager to assist me than others I have worked with in the past.”

Lake attributes his own intern experiences with SULI and HERE as one of the reasons he is able to effectively mentor Bystricky and other students.

“I think what’s important to remember as a mentor is that students who participate in the program are here to become engaged in real-world experiences involving leading-edge research,” said Lake. “Whether it’s Second Life or some other form of applied research, I try to always ensure that student participants complete the program with a good understanding and appreciation for working in a national-lab environment.”