Cates Takes Initiative During Internship at Ameren

August 16, 2022

Ashley Cates is conducting an internship with Ameren.

Ashley Cates is conducting an internship with Ameren.

Participating in an internship is a great way to learn new skills.

Ashley Cates, a junior in chemical engineering, spent the summer as a systems engineering intern with Ameren.

We asked her some questions about the experience.

Tell us about your internship at Ameren. What’s your role and primary responsibility?  

This summer I am working as a systems engineering intern at the Callaway Nuclear Power Plant. I am a member of the technical programs team and am currently working on becoming a selective leaching specialist.  

What’s a typical day like?  

Plant conditions are constantly changing, so our daily schedules reflect these fluctuations. However, if I were to describe an average day on-site, it would go like this:  

Leave my house in Jeff city around 5:20 a.m. to be in my office by 6 a.m. to grab coffee and breakfast while catching up with coworkers before the morning brief. After the brief, I get assigned work from my team that I will work on for the rest of the day. Sometime in the afternoon, I usually get whisked away to do a job in the field for a couple hours. If I have free time, I visit the gym on site to stretch my legs and get out of the cube, occasionally getting a game of HORSE in with my coworkers. I leave the site at 4 p.m., completing my 10-hour day. 

How did Mizzou Engineering prepare you for this internship? 

My understanding of thermodynamics and basic power cycles have been a key component in my success at this internship. Despite only being a sophomore when offered the job, I have been able to keep up conceptually with the inner goings of the plant, allowing me to be more efficient with my work instead of having to ask a million questions before even starting. I credit this to Mizzou Engineering for restructuring the chemical engineering program to enroll students in thermodynamics earlier on. 

How did Mizzou Engineering Career Services assist you with securing or preparing for this internship? 

Mizzou Engineering is to thank for me securing this internship because of the virtual career fair! I was able to schedule what was essentially an interview through handshake and received a job offer two weeks later.  

What have you enjoyed most working at Ameren so far? 

The people. Callaway has a unique employee distribution where half of the workers have been employed since the plant first went online in 1984, and the other half are fresh Mizzou/S&T graduates replacing those who just retired after working a good 40 years at the plant. It’s the perfect combination of experience and fresh ideas, while also making for an interesting work dynamic. I love everyone on my team and will miss them dearly when it is time to go back to school. 

What have you learned from your internship experience?  

The main little tidbit I’ve picked up on while working at my first internship is that your success as an intern fully depends on your willingness to seek out work. If I don’t take the initiative to ask for projects/offer help/ask to see things, I would end up bored in my cubicle with nothing to do. Building relationships with my coworkers has definitely helped with feeling more comfortable constantly asking for work. 

What advice would you give other students wanting to have a similar internship experience? 

Don’t be afraid to try new things! I knew close to nothing about nuclear before starting this internship – which in hindsight, maybe wasn’t the best quality for securing the internship – but it has made my experience that much more interesting. I learn something new or see something new every day, which makes me excited to come to work.  

Is there anything else you’d like others to know about your internship? 

So far, I’ve received 6.3 millirems of radiation and have yet to gain superpowers. Kind of disappointed, but according to the NRC, the average person gets 610 millirems per year from natural, medical, commercial and industrial sources, so my chances of getting superpowers here are slim. 

Thanks for sharing!

Want to attend a college that helps students try new things? Apply to Mizzou today!