How do you contribute to the Lab’s mission of bringing science solutions to the world?
I feel very fortunate and proud to have contributed to several programs that I consider significant for science and society in general. Some of the first were a redesigned microchip for physics research at Fermilab and Brookhaven National Lab, and a new custom microchip for space atmospheric plasma study, which is now on its way to Mercury for 2027.
After those projects, I became deeply involved in designing sensors for Cryo-electron Microscopy (Cryo-EM) cameras. Sounds exotic, but these Berkeley Lab-designed sensors have been commercialized into the highest resolution cameras available for this discipline. They have become the world standard for structural biology, and many important viral proteins, such as the Zika virus, have been uniquely mapped with these cameras. In fact, the Gatan K3 camera provided the first map of Sars-CoV-2 at the University of Texas at Austin in February 2020. That research, in part, enabled the start of COVID-19 vaccine development. I’ve come full circle because my more recent design work has been for the ATLAS detector upgrade at CERN, and low-noise front-end circuits for gamma-ray detectors and light source instruments.
How did receiving the Director’s Award change you or your work?
My award was Diversity, so there was not a direct impact on my technical work -- integrated circuit design -- but definitely, there was a significant impact on the visibility and validation of my Employee Resource Group (ERG) work at the Lab. We had a small group of dedicated people in the Lambda Employee Activities Association and Lambda ERG volunteering their time to create the first Gender Transition Guideline at a national lab, a relatively early idea for any business.
I was very active at the time in trans-advocacy, and I had attended diversity conferences that were both technical and non-technical. I learned a great deal from them, and I had had my own recent experiences, both good and bad, with gender transition. The award seemed like a validation of my effort and the efforts of my colleagues in Lambda. That feeling has only become stronger as I have seen Director Witherell’s unwavering support and prioritization of the Lab’s diversity initiative. I view it as a promise kept through these challenging times. Several years earlier, I believe day-to-day equity and acceptance at the Lab were uneven for Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming (TGNC) folks. But I also believe the focus on equity has us on track thanks to the dedication of the Director, his staff, Lady Idos, and many leaders at the Lab. And yes, my mom and my family were all quite impressed by the award!
Why would you encourage others to nominate someone for the Director’s Award?
It's a great opportunity to raise awareness across the Lab community about a person or a team's good work, but what is the intangible that makes it worth it? Well, the monetary award IS tangible! But more to the point, the pride and visibility that the award bestows are motivating and significant. And when you nominate someone, you become a part of that pride and a sense of purpose -- to award someone else is to award yourself in a way. It is recognition that feels good and recognizes that you can be an agent of change.