Friday, September 29, 2023
  Community, Around Campus

By Maria Gonzalez

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – SEPT. 00, 2023 – The second annual meeting of the UTRGV Consortium of Advanced Additive Manufacturing Research and Education for Energy Related Systems – known as the CA2REERs Consortium – was held Sept. 22 on the Edinburg Campus.

The event featured discussions with CA2REERs partners, including UT San Antonio, the University of Arizona, the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Participants discussed areas of opportunity, with a focus on incorporating national laboratories into senior design projects, research and joint supervision in thesis projects, as well as summer internship opportunities for students.

utrgv undergrad
Esmeralda González, undergraduate civil engineering student at UTRGV. (UTRGV Photo by Jesus Alferez)

Dr. Jianzhi (James) Li, director of CA2REERs, discussed the consortium's dual goals.

  • To establish and maintain a DOE Consortium of Advanced Additive Manufacturing Research and Education for Energy-Related Systems.
  • To expose, recruit, engage and train students from underrepresented groups for careers in Advanced Manufacturing for Energy, while also stressing the significance of collaborations with other institutions.

“Student engagement and collaborations across the county are the key to success," Li said. “We have a large number of students being offered research opportunities at UTRGV, and a significant number of our students are receiving summer internship opportunities at international laboratories.”

In the past year, 15 UTRGV students – primarily first-generation Hispanic students – participated in summer internships at the Oak Ridge and Los Alamos national labs, Li said, and that number will increase in fiscal year 2024.

“But this is not only about the numbers. It's about the quality of our students at UTRGV and their success in these internships,” he said. “This is how we measure our success – through our students' achievements and our contribution to a high-quality workforce for national security.”


During the event, students who were interns at the Oak Ridge and Los Alamos labs this summer presented their student research posters and shared some of the many success stories created by the CA2REERs Consortium.

utrgv undergrad
Esmeralda González, an undergraduate civil engineering student at UTRGV, participated in the summer 2023 internship program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (Courtesy Photo)

Esmeralda González, 45, a non-traditional, undergraduate civil engineering student at UTRGV who interned this summer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, said the internship is a key component on the path to achieving her professional goals after graduation.

“In 2014, I had the opportunity to work in Iskenderun, Hatay Province, Turkey, as an environmental health and safety technician, in a power plant on the border with Syria and Turkey during a time of war,” she said. "My work came about through networking and staying in touch with mentors and colleagues from previous jobs."

In her role, she helped ensure the safety of industrial workers there by overseeing their work practices, equipment and protection practices.

González is now looking forward to applying the knowledge she acquired at UTRGV and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory when she graduates with a degree in engineering.

“My goal after graduation is to go to Turkey to work on the earthquake problems they have. Having lived in Turkey for almost two years, I feel that this is a calling for me,” she said.

The internship this summer allowed her to open up her mind beyond her limitations, she said.

“I am 45 years old, a non-traditional student, and this opportunity has taught me that there are no limits when it comes to age, gender, or economic status,” González said.

She is adamant about accomplishing her dreams, and as a first-generation student herself, she wants to inspire her children and future generations.

“I was born in Reynosa, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when I was 8. UTRGV gave me the opportunity to intern at one of the most prestigious research facilities in the world. For me, it's a dream come true,” González said. “UTRGV has given me a second opportunity in life to fulfill my dreams.”

Dr. Can (John) Saygin, senior VP for Research and dean of the Graduate College, said UTRGV's CA2REERs Consortium is a commitment to cultivating the next generation of engineers.

“It is success stories like this that serve as a testament to UTRGV's steadfast dedication to preparing our students with a solid education and invaluable real-life experiences in energy innovation and advanced manufacturing technologies,” he said. “We are shaping the next generation of the engineering workforce.”

To learn more about the CA2REERs Consortium, visit:


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.