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Penn State experiences lead to renewable energy job with GE for EMS student

Amanda Berta, a senior majoring in energy engineering in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS), snorkels during a recent trip to Iceland, where she toured the nation's renewable energy facilities through the GREEN Program.
February 10, 2017

It’s as if everything Amanda Berta touches turns to gold.

In 2015, the senior majoring in energy engineering in Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS) won an NCAA title as part of the Penn State women’s soccer team. Then, seeking more time on the field, she switched to rugby. The result? Another national title.

It’s only natural that she then parlayed an internship with General Electric into a full-time career after she graduates in May 2017. She will start with their elite two-year rotational Renewable Energy Development Program, where she will tour four areas of the onshore wind-power industry before settling into a permanent role with the energy company. Of more than 300 students interviewed, four were hired into the program.

For her first rotation, she’ll head to Schenectady, New York, where she’ll be in the field, checking the blades on the wind turbines for weaknesses and failures. Then she’ll jump into manufacturing at GE’s Pensacola, Florida, plant. Third, she will start a field rotation in the Mojave Desert, where she’ll monitor and service wind turbines. She has some experience already doing that from her summer 2015 internship with GE. For her last rotation, she can choose California or Oregon, based on her interests, before fine-tuning her career in sustainable energy.

“EMS does a really good job preparing you and helping you get placed in a career that best suits you,” said Berta. “A lot of students from other schools were with me at GE, and they were all very confused at some of the concepts, and I was like ‘I know exactly what you’re talking about.’ Without the technical aspect that Penn State gave me I definitely couldn’t have gotten as far as I did at General Electric.”

Berta, from Ridgefield, Connecticut, said she heard about Penn State’s energy program from family friend Sean O’Brien, who graduated in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in mineral economics.

Once she toured the University Park campus and met Allen Kimel, assistant professor of materials science and engineering and undergraduate program chair, she fell in love with the program. She said a lot of other schools only offered alternative energy or green energy, whereas Penn State offered the full arsenal of energy.

“It’s more than just that. You can’t forget about coal and petroleum. You can’t leave it out of the equation. That’s what drives the whole renewable energy in the first place,” she said. “Other programs just ignored the fact that all these other energies were around us. I liked that Penn State’s program intertwined both.”

Berta, who double minored in energy, business and finance and environmental engineering, said she prefers field engineering for onshore wind turbines. She doesn’t mind the 400-foot climb to the top of the towers. She’s powered by adventure. Her ideal job would be working on a troubleshooting team, where she can live wherever she wants and fly out to fix turbines.

“It’s kind of my dream position,” she said.

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