Adventures as an LLNL Intern: Jilian Nguyen

I am more than halfway through my time as an intern at Lawrence Livermore National Labs (at the time of this writing) in Livermore, California and I can’t quite believe it’s already half over! I’ve been able to meet some truly amazing people, work in a fantastic environment, and go to some awesome places in Northern California. I’m excited to share!

The Lab culture is very laid back, which isn’t something you’d expect of a place with the imposing title of “National Government Laboratory”! Student interns are given the freedom to decide when to come into work and how to best spend that time, as long as you still complete the number of required hours per week and you get your work done. Occasionally your mentor will touch base with you, but otherwise, you are not constantly supervised. There are always talks and workshops happening somewhere on lab campus, so attending those help give you a break from work while still learning something new. The atmosphere of the lab makes this a wonderful place to work!

The Lab hires a diverse set of students from all parts of the country, all majors, and all educational backgrounds. Because of this, I’ve been able to meet people who show me different ways of thinking about and seeing everything around me! I’ve had the pleasure of making good friends here that I would love to keep up with in the future. Being able to go to amazing places with other interns has made my experience that much better, I really don’t think I’d be having as much fun as I am without them!

I’ve gone to San Francisco a few times now, and each time is an adventure (it’s also a workout…those hills sure are something)! The first time, we went to Pier 39 to window shop and have good food, while enjoying the cooler weather by the ocean (Livermore is a bit too far inland to enjoy the benefits of the best heatsink there is).

Getting our picture taken with the rest of SF in the background

We went seal observing, and then walked further into the city to attend a food and culture festival in the North Beach neighborhood, where we found a lovely park (with many dogs!) and some insanely good gelato!

The next time I went to SF, the visit became a mini culinary tour of Chinatown and J-town. We started with eating dim sum in the oldest dim sum restaurant in SF (dating back from the 1920’s!), watched insane volleyball games with over 10 people per side, and then walked to a dog park in front of a beautiful church, where I was able to pet many different dogs including a sheltie, a golden, a pug, and a terrier! Afterwards we trekked to J-Town, where I had black sesame ice

You can’t go wrong with Pocky and rainbow sprinkles on top of a delicious dessert

cream in a tayaki cone (a fish-shaped cake with sweet red bean filling). We went to a Japanese restaurant to have dinner, where we ate some delicious ramen. I’m definitely not done with San Francisco yet, and I can’t wait to see what else this city has in store for me!


I am not what you would call “in shape”, but nonetheless I still ventured to Yosemite and took up the challenge of a 7-mile round trip hike with a couple of interns who helped pace me. The beauty of Yosemite astounded me, and I was in awe (and a little bit of fear) when I witnessed the awesome power of the waterfalls, crashing frigid snowmelt against sharp rocks.

Vernal Falls views from the Mist trail (click to view the full pictures, especially the right one!)

We took the Mist trail, which misted us real well at the end of the first mile with the spray from Vernal Falls soaking the steep steps up past the waterfall. I was bone-tired after the hike, but very proud of myself and my fellow interns who made the hike with me. In the over-the-top words of Matt, one of the interns I was with, we explored the cathedrals of the earth that day, and boy was it beautiful.

It is only because of a very slight slope that the water didn’t wash over the area where people were sunbathing, just feet away!

Our change in elevation was a total of about 3,400 feet from the bottom of the trail up to Nevada falls. This is an insane amount of exercise for a sedentary person such as myself

This past weekend, a group of 11 interns including me decided to take a beach day and drive to Santa Cruz to enjoy the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk! It was a hot day in Livermore and we were very happy that Santa Cruz was about 15 degrees cooler. The water was frigid, but once you stopped screaming and just kept yourself in the water for a few minutes, it was doable.

And it was fun riding the waves back towards the beach. It wasn’t too hot out on the beach and the breezes were wonderful! I also rode the 5th oldest roller coaster in the US here, since the boardwalk has a permanent carnival overlooking the beach. In the evening we found a local burger place that had a large selection of amazing burgers, which tasted SO GOOD.

A picture of the Merced river with Yosemite falls in the background at the end of the day after our hike

Especially after a day of exertion at the beach!


That has been a recap of my adventures so far, and I am so ready for whatever else is in store!

Fun at the beach!



Jilian Nguyen is an undergraduate at the University of Arizona, College of Optical Sciences. She previously worked for Pierre Blanche as an undergraduate fellow, working on holographic solutions for better internet networks. She is an active participant in optics outreach both for CIAN and for the college. For the summer of 2017 she will be an intern at Lawrence Livermore National Labs in Livermore, California. Jilian enjoys video games, Game of Thrones, and long boarding.

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