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

March 13, 2023

Jenny Duong is a process engineer at the Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts Process Development Unit (ABPDU) at Berkeley Lab. Her day-to-day responsibilities include running fermentation campaigns at the bench and pilot scales, analyzing data, troubleshooting equipment, and communicating with ABPDU’s industry collaborators such as Checkerspot, Geltor, Pow Bio, Zymochem, Amyris, and others. Bench scale campaigns are conducted on samples up to 10L in volume, while pilot scale is performed with samples up to 300L volume.

In her free time, Jenny loves to hike and travel. She considers nature as her happy place because it helps balance her life and work, and the key to staying positive and healthy.

What inspired you to work at Berkeley Lab? What excites you about your work?

With a background in bio-manufacturing, I’ve always been interested in the fermentation process and sustainable products such as biofuels and proteins that are made through fermentation. I first started at the Lab in 2020 as a part-time intern on the fermentation team at ABPDU. From the very beginning, I have always been continually impressed by the diversity, passion, and friendliness of everyone on the team. ABPDU became a place for me to learn everything about fermentation. I’ve been able to grow and my work never gets boring. Every project is different and comes with new challenges, giving me the opportunity to learn new things and improve my troubleshooting skills day by day. And I feel like I’m a part of an important mission to take more responsibilities both at and outside of my work to help build a sustainable world.

What does your current scientific project or research entail?

My current project involves collaborating with a startup client to successfully scale their bench scale fermentation process up to a pilot scale and generate fatty acid products in the multi-kg range for the first time. Fatty acid products are and can be used in multiple industries such as cosmetics and food. 

What have you been most proud of in your work?

I’m proud of every project I’ve taken on at the Lab as we support emerging startups that are working to bring us one step closer to a sustainable world. The other aspect of my work that I am proud of is how we contribute to local colleges by providing open resources and knowledge sharing to teach new students the latest fermentation processes. For example, I used to take classes at Laney College and recently my team at ABPDU developed a software tool called RedPump1f for their bio-manufacturing program to support the students with their fermentation class.  

Recently, I also supported the ABPDU analytical team by taking ownership of several analytical projects which stretched my capabilities. I’m grateful to now be able to leverage newfound analytical skills that will benefit me in my current and future projects.

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

I highly recommend that they prepare themselves for a role where they are constantly learning, and to stay up to date with the latest technology. Being open and flexible towards collaborating with cross-functional teams and people with diverse backgrounds is also an important skill and factor for success. 

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

I think our community can engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM by connecting with high schools and colleges and providing more internships and mentoring programs that could provide hands-on experiences, career growth insights, and draw their interests in STEM.

Above: Jenny at the Grand Canyon (left) and in Mount Rainier National Park (right)