A Department of Homeland Security Emeritus Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

Unconventional internship ideally suits a nuclear engineer


Unconventional internship ideally suits a nuclear engineer

September 29, 2016Brooke Blankenship

Thiago Sardo never shies away from a challenge and his experience as a STEM intern with START this past summer can attest to that. Growing up in Rio de Janeiro, Sardo began his studies at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) majoring in Health Physics. In 2014 he changed course and set his sights on nuclear engineering.

Seeking to broaden his horizons, Sardo joined Science without Borders, a program for Brazilian students and researchers that aims to internationalize technology and innovation. With funding from the program, Sardo studied at the Missouri University of Science and Technology beginning in summer 2015.

This past summer, his sponsor offered him the opportunity to intern or conduct research anywhere in the United States. Determined to find an opportunity unlike any other, Sardo scoured university websites with nuclear engineering programs to find the best fit for his skills. His search came to a close when he uncovered START and its Unconventional Weapons and Technology Division.

Sardo never anticipated working in terrorism studies. 

“That was the main reason I was so interested in working at START—because it was something new,” he said. “The opportunity to pursue this type of research did not exist for me in Brazil.”

So he seized the opportunity without hesitation.

“I think the experience I gained from my internship with START will set me apart from other engineers in the job market,” he said. “I was able to find opportunities that used my engineering skills in new ways.

As part of the responsibilities for his internship on the Prometheus project, Sardo reviewed reports on nuclear infrastructure and materials within a suite of countries. Then, he worked with teams to develop scenarios and resolve the technical issues of transporting and shielding nuclear materials.

Sardo has returned to Brazil to finish his undergraduate studies. He plans to return to the United States to pursue a master’s or Ph.D.

“I’m still figuring out exactly which discipline to pursue, but terrorism studies is now an option,” he said. “I loved the interdisciplinary nature I experienced at START and feel the subject of terrorism will, sadly, remain an important one. Whatever I choose, I’d like my work to be useful to society.”