Chemical engineering intern is at the forefront of clean energy innovation
The clean energy sector continues to rapidly expand in the U.S. According to the 2023 U.S. Energy and Employment Report, 114,000 jobs were created last year, and the clear energy sector now comprises over 40% of total energy jobs. To meet the growing demand, many energy companies are investing in developing new talent through scholarships and internship programs.
Rising senior Alexis Allegro is currently interning with ExxonMobil, where she has been able to hone the skills acquired during her time at the College of Engineering and Computing.
Allegro’s interest in science and math started at an early age. She knew she wanted to join the clean energy industry after developing an interest in sustainability through the college’s next energy class, taught by Chemical Engineering Professor Jochen Lauterbach.
“He is very passionate about sustainability. Talking to him inspired me and made me realize that there was a real difference that I'd be able to make,” Allegro says.
Allegro’s passion for sustainability blossomed last summer in her home state, when she worked on a clean energy team at New Jersey Resources. “I worked alongside the engineers and business team, and I learned a lot from both perspectives,” Allegro says. “They're taking a lot of leaps over the next few years to become more sustainable, and I saw how they were planning on doing that.”
Following her experience at New Jersey Resources, Allegro knew ExxonMobil’s internship program was her first choice because she wanted to explore a wider variety of chemical engineering applications. She is currently assigned to a team that creates several types of rubber and among her daily activities, Allegro not only shadows senior employees but is also given the opportunity to work independently.
“Most of the projects that I'm working on are solely mine, but along the way I get help from a lot of the full-time employees. If I have any questions about what I'm supposed to do next, they’re always able to help me," Allegro says. "I’ve also had opportunities to listen to presentations from various leaders in the sustainability space about what ExxonMobil is doing."
In addition to her professional experiences, Allegro is very involved at the university. She is the co-president of the University of South Carolina chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, where her duties include organizing events like career fairs, panels and socials for the club’s members.
She also participates in undergraduate research as a part of the SmartState Center for Strategic Approaches to the Generation of Electricity lab at USC. Working under Lauterbach, she has contributed to a project that explores ammonia as a carbon-free energy carrier for transportation applications.
“It's really interesting to be able to work on projects that are different from what we would do in the classroom,” Allegro says. “In the classroom, you're given a specific problem with a specific answer to. In the research lab, that's not always necessarily the case.”
Lauterbach describes Allegro as an important member of his research team, and he sees her being successful in any environment. “Alexis has solid technical knowledge, but what makes her even more valuable is her outgoing personality and teamwork skills,” Lauterbach says. “Teamwork has become very important in interdisciplinary companies such as ExxonMobil.”
After graduation, Allegro plans to explore job opportunities at ExxonMobil and other similar companies. “I want to work at a company where I feel like I can make a difference,” Allegro says. “My experiences in the past year have made me excited for my career as a chemical engineer because I’ve realized there really are no limits to how much you can do.”