Aerial view of Brookhaven National Lab


Growing Long Island’s Tech Workforce

July 9, 2024

Pictured: Aerial view of Brookhaven National Laboratory Photo courtesy of BNL

Home to many research institutions and multidisciplinary laboratories, Long Island has been steadily asserting itself as a growing high-tech hub for years. This burgeoning technology corridor gained even more ground in January 2020 when the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that an electron-ion collider (EIC) would be built at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) in Upton, N.Y. In April, New York state announced it will invest $100 million in the project.

Classroom Knowledge Meets Applied Skills

A hub for transformative science and technology solutions since its founding in 1947, BNL has long partnered with New York Institute of Technology for a steady stream of talent for roles from internships to full-time employment.

“We’ve been working with New York Tech on internships for many years,” says Kenneth White, manager of BNL’s office of educational programs. “They have been an active partner, particularly in the computing, information technology, and engineering sectors.”

According to White, New York Tech students stand out in their ability to apply what they’re learning in class to the real world.

“New York Tech students take a consistently rigorous approach to not only learning their course material, but applying it to actual problems they encounter,” says White. “Particularly students who have been involved in solving real-world problems with industry partners through initiatives like the Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovation Center (ETIC), which is a great source for talent.”

With locations on both the Long Island and New York City campuses, the ETIC accelerates the regional economy and ensures greater competitiveness by helping companies and entrepreneurs bring their ideas to life as early-phase prototypes using the ETIC’s advanced technology prototyping abilities and readily available engineering workforce. ETIC is part of the College of Engineering and Computing Sciences.

“With limitless opportunities for our researchers to collaborate with their BNL counterparts, and opportunities for our students to work alongside scholars in a prestigious national lab, this natural partnership will result in profound and tangible benefits to the technical community and national interests,” says Dean Babak D. Beheshti, Ph.D.

“At New York Tech, we’re focused on giving our students the best experiences they can possibly have, and part of being a top-notch STEM school is having robust research and internship opportunities,” says New York Tech President Henry C. Foley, Ph.D. “BNL is a pure science powerhouse, and they’re looking for a talented and diverse workforce that we can help provide. Our partnership is an upward spiral. As we get better, they get better, and everybody wins because we’re working closely together.”

From Engineers to Trade Specialists and Everything in Between

Many New York Tech graduates are building careers at BNL. As of spring 2024, BNL has nearly 60 full-time employees who were or are enrolled at New York Tech. More than 40 percent of these employees are engineers, with significant numbers serving in technical support or technical professional roles or in information technology.

One of these alumni is Long Island native Filippo Toscano (B.S. ’07), a graduate of the mechanical engineering – aerospace program. While working for the NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY) for nine years, Toscano drove past BNL almost every day, wondering what kind of projects were underway at the facility.

“Even being in such proximity to BNL, I never saw myself working here because I had an idea that they only hired Ph.D.s,” says Toscano, manager of BNL’s Facility Operations Center, who is responsible for a team that handles everything from small-scale construction to preventative and predictive maintenance. “When I found out about all of the open positions that went beyond research, I realized the level of support a place like BNL needs to keep pace with that kind of scientific work.”

BNL has a steady stream of open positions, from electrical and mechanical engineers to radiological control technicians. With the EIC expected to start operations in the early 2030s, more jobs are doubtless on the way.

“At BNL, we’re building the most advanced EIC in the world, a $1.6 billion to $2.6 billion project that requires a full set of capabilities,” says White. “We need scientists and engineers, of course, but we also need skilled technicians, people capable of production and testing on very unique machines and tools, and staff who are certified for quality assurance and certain safety parameters—it takes a complex team to keep BNL running.”

“A big part of my role is also staying ahead of the technology, making sure that we make the best and most efficient choice when it comes to repairing or replacing an asset,” says Toscano, who worked with maintenance technologies and methods at DSNY. “With my New York Tech engineering degree, I understand the problem-solving process. That combined with my knowledge of the trades and how to maintain this infrastructure is incredibly valuable here.”

Chris Pontieri Photo courtesy of BNL

“I Took My Skills and I Scaled Up on Them”

Chris Pontieri (B.S. ’15) comes from a family with BNL connections. His grandfather was a union electrician there in the 1960s, and his uncle was a liaison engineer. An employee since 2009, Pontieri made a strategic move by leveraging his New York Tech degree for a career change at BNL.

“I was working as a mechanical technician at BNL while I attended New York Tech to get my architectural technology degree,” says Pontieri. “Architectural design was a major interest of mine, and when I graduated, my boss offered me the chance to work in the physics design room because I knew how to use 3D CAD software.”

After Pontieri made that switch, he eventually realized that what he really enjoyed most in his role was project management and coordination of logistics. By leveraging these skills, he became a project engineer who worked on coordinating costs, internal reviews, scheduling, labor resources, and more. As of October, Pontieri became a system engineer on the EIC.

“New York Tech showed me what I could accomplish with the degree I earned,” says Pontieri. “I got to where I am because I scaled up my skills. I’ve gone on to get my M.B.A. and Project Management Professional (PMP) certification so I can broaden myself and become even more valuable.”

With its Long Island campus located less than an hour’s drive from BNL, New York Tech is perfectly positioned geographically and academically to continue supplying well-trained workers to support this globally important facility—and others in the technology sector—as regional and national demand for relevant skills continues to grow.

This article originally appeared in the Spring/Summer 2024 issue of New York Institute of Technology Magazine. Read the full issue.