What do you do at Berkeley Lab?
Laser plasma accelerators have been the largest part of my career – we push particles very quickly by shining an intense laser into ionized gas. In just centimeters, the particles are traveling so quickly, that they approach the speed of light (the speed limit in the universe). We are using that to develop, for example, next-generation particle colliders as well as precisely controlled X-rays for medicine and industry. The division also works on fusion, which is a path to clean carbon-free power, and on applications for things such as energy storage.
You joined Lambda Alliance Employee Resource Group (ERG) in 2015 and became the executive sponsor in February 2022. What does the executive sponsor do?
My job is to connect Lambda with other ERGs and management and to take issues they see and bring them to the Lab as a whole. My goal is to ensure that the work of the employee resource group is appreciated and the issues members identify are taken seriously. At the same time, I also get to participate as a member of a wonderful group, Lambda, in the Lab’s contingent at Sunday’s Pride parade.
You have spoken about the importance of having a diverse workforce. What are the challenges of reaching that goal?
The physical sciences, in particular, but all workplaces, have structural barriers against the participation of certain groups. It results in our fields having disproportionately lower representation of minorities, women, LGBTQ+ folks, and others. We need to create an environment that allows people to express themselves and be their authentic selves at work. Pride Month, as with other months honoring under-represented groups, is an opportunity for allies to think about not having their experience being the default. I suggest for example the video “Puncturing Stereotypes and Their Impact on Identity” and subscribing to the 5 Ally Actions newsletter.