Fraunhofer CSE may be best known for its contract research, but professional development and workforce training has been a major part of the Center’s mission from the very beginning.
Since 2009, Fraunhofer CSE has been training promising young scientists and engineers who are interested in making a career in clean energy. But Fellowships at CSE aren’t your typical internship– a CSE Fellow will work side-by-side with senior technical staff on projects and publications, learning first-hand how the Center helps clients prove out and commercialize their innovative clean energy technologies. Along the way, there are plenty of opportunities to excel: past Fellows have helped build up CSE lab capabilities, established test sites, created new tools and testing methods, and even contributed to patents and other intellectual property.
CSE offers two types of Fellowship opportunities:
- Research Fellows assist Fraunhofer CSE’s applied research groups, working on internal and industry R&D projects under the guidance of a member of Fraunhofer’s technical staff.
- TechBridge Fellows learn the analytical skills of venture capitalists and develop their managerial capabilities working in an applied technical environment.
By the time a Fellow finishes their time at Fraunhofer, they will have acquired or honed a broad range of transferable science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills. These can include project design and management, grant writing, operating and maintaining specialized laboratory equipment, field deployment and testing of technologies, or focus groups management. TechBridge Fellows acquire their own skillsets as they work with both local and international clean energy start-ups, learning how to identify and support promising technologies on the journey from the lab to the marketplace. “Soft skills” such teamwork, mentorship and presentation skills are also emphasized through a self-driven skill development curriculum.
More than anything else, Fraunhofer CSE acts as a talent incubator: it attracts high-quality applicants that are as passionate about commercialization and business as they are about science, giving them an opportunity to work – and learn – in an industry-focused research environment. For clean energy companies, hiring a CSE Fellow means getting a worker who has the training needed to pick up a job and run with it on Day One.
As a result, it’s not uncommon for CSE Fellows to receive a compelling job offer well before the end of their fellowship period. As Diana Elliot, a former Graduate Fellow, notes: “While at Fraunhofer CSE, several interns – including myself – were actively recruited by companies despite the sluggishness of the economy.” She credits her time at CSE, “which launched me ahead of the competition in the job market,” as a key factor in securing her current position as Building Envelope Specialist at the New York-based architecture firm Klepper, Hahn & Hyatt.
Ed Cahill, a 2011 Fellow in CSE’s Photovoltaic Technology Group who is currently working as a research assistant at energy consulting company Lux Research, agrees. “My internship at Fraunhofer CSE was the stepping stone that got me to where I want to be – working in the solar industry.” Past CSE Fellows have been able to leverage their experiences to land positions at companies as diverse as BMW and eBay, assume technical roles at respected industry players like First Solar, or secure highly coveted jobs at government organizations like the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program.
Others continue on into higher education, building on their CSE experience with a targeted degree in a clean energy or engineering-related field. John Lloyd, a former Fellow now working towards a PhD at CalTech, claims “the breadth of [Fraunhofer CSE’s] applied research and development helped me better understand the PV industry, and informed my decision to attend graduate school.” Mike Lucini, who decided to pursue an Energy Systems Engineering degree in the wake of his fellowship, agrees calling his time at CSE “truly one of the transformative experiences of my life.”
By the end of 2012, Fraunhofer CSE’s Fellowship program will have trained and graduated almost 100 scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and marketing professionals. Large as that number may be, it’s still only the beginning; with the move to a new, larger facility and a host of new research programs in the works, opportunities for CSE Fellows are better than ever. To learn more about our Fellowship program and its alumni, please visit the official program page.
[Additional content by Martin Sachs.]