CMWS Alumni Spotlight - Coastal Carolina University
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Alumni Spotlight

From intern to employed: The path from CCU to naval research

Physical scientist AJ Kammerer ’17 spends his days working for the Naval Research Lab (NRL) in Monterey, Calif.—a place he describes as “a wonderful environment” for both the freedom to do independent research and the support from his peers and employers. Prior to working as a scientist for the government, Kammerer began developing his research skills at CCU.

As an active undergraduate in CCU’s marine science program, Kammerer first got involved in research working with associate professor Diane Fribance as a summer intern. He got further experience working with professor Erin Burge, participating in a Maymester class to Jamaica to study coral reef ecology. “CCU was a great place to go to school,” Kammerer said. “I loved everything.”

Kammerer also got involved in the Environmental Fluids Lab (EFL) early on. When Fribance announced in class that associate professor Erin Hackett was searching  for an intern to work in the EFL, Kammerer jumped at the chance to participate. The following summer, Kammerer worked with Hackett doing Particle Image Velocimetry, or PIV, research. PIV is an optical measurement technique that involves a laser illuminating water to measure the fluid dynamics of a specific scenario, such as the wake a shark’s tail might produce. The technique is noninvasive; the laser doesn’t artificially affect the water’s flow, which allows for a more accurate measurement to be taken. Kammerer’s work in the EFL ultimately turned into a research position under Hackett within the master’s program, where his focus switched from PIV to the study of radar.

Working with Hackett also presented Kammerer the opportunity to get involved in the Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program (NREIP). This competitive internship allows students to get hands-on experience working in diverse naval labs. Kammerer, who secured an internship in Monterey, turned the opportunity into a full-time position following graduation. “It’s an amazing program and an awesome opportunity to get your foot in the door if you want to work in government,” he said.

At the NRL, Kammerer works in the marine meteorology division in an effort to better understand how the environment affects radar performance. The opportunities he was exposed to at CCU and in Hackett’s lab were critical to his life post-graduation.

“[Hackett] pushes you and expects a lot, but it’s so worth it in the end. She was incredibly instrumental in my accomplishments,” he said. Kammerer has considered extending his studies into a Ph.D. program but is happy in his role at the NRL. “I love where I’m working right now… I don’t see leaving this position any time soon.”