Gianna Marschmann 

Visible Spectrum is a series to spotlight talented and dedicated women employees across the Lab

May 16, 2024

As a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Ecology Department of Berkeley Lab’s Earth and Environmental Sciences Area, Gianna’s day-to-day responsibilities involve using genomic data from microorganisms to understand and model their functionality, which can improve the accuracy of climate models. She’s also the representative for the Climate and Ecosystem Sciences Division’s early career population, which entails actively listening to the needs and concerns of the early career community and reporting monthly to the division council to ensure their voices and perspectives are effectively communicated and addressed.

In her free time, Gianna plays in San Francisco’s Women's Flag Football League and enjoys spending time with loved ones.

What inspired you to work at Berkeley Lab? 

My inspiration to work at LBNL stemmed from my experiences as a graduate student, particularly through interactions with LBNL scientists at scientific conferences: Nick Bouskill at the General Assembly of the European Geosciences Union and Mary Firestone at the annual meeting of the German Soil Science Society. I chose Berkeley Lab for its excellence in the earth and environmental sciences research fields and also because I observed a strong emphasis on mentorship, which resonated with my own values and aspirations.

What does your current research entail?

My research operates at the interface between biosciences and earth and environmental sciences. I have demonstrated that tackling science challenges in complex interconnected systems, from California’s grasslands to thawing permafrost in the Arctic, requires interdisciplinary collaboration. However, navigating this intersection can be challenging due to the misalignment of funding mechanisms. We can change this by showcasing success stories of how paradigms can be overturned and new discoveries made by more integrated coordination.

What have you been most proud of in your work at the Lab?

I am proud to collaborate with a team of brilliant and diverse individuals to collectively work on addressing several pressing environmental challenges. Effectively tackling these issues necessitates contributions from a wide range of disciplines, including microbiology, ecology, soil physics, mineralogy, physical chemistry, artificial intelligence, modeling, and bioinformatics. Fortunately, our training at LBNL equips us with the skills to communicate effectively across disciplines.

Do you have tips you'd recommend for someone looking to enter and/or succeed in your field of work?

A substantial part of my work is at the intersection of traditional scientific disciplines, demanding creativity in unfamiliar terrain and the courage to embrace uncertainty. My advice is to confidently engage in these areas even if your perspective may be underrepresented, recognizing that this approach is both valued and rewarded. I had to learn this firsthand. 


How can our community engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM? 

We should prioritize advancing scientists from underrepresented groups in their individual academic careers. This involves providing opportunities for them to lead research groups and shape teams, thereby fostering a more collaborative, socially inclusive, and identity-affirming environment in which women, girls, and other underrepresented groups are heard, seen, and valued. These groups are highly interested in STEM but often lack awareness of their full aptitude and the range of career opportunities available. Holding institutions accountable and incentivizing inclusive recruitment, retention, and promotion practices through positive action would be a big step forward.

Credit: Vincent Dimasaca