Visible Spectrum is a series to spotlight talented and dedicated women employees across the Lab
October 12, 2021
Xiaoqin Wu is an environmental project scientist at the Department of Ecology within the Earth and Environmental Sciences Area. Her research interests include environmental chemistry and ecotoxicity of emerging contaminants and environmental microbiology.
When she is not working on benchtop experiments and operating instruments at the Lab, Xiaoqin enjoys playing ping-pong, badminton, poker, and traveling. She’s also taken up Chinese chess and cooking in the past year.
What inspired you to work at Berkeley Lab? What excites you about your work?
Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley have incomparable intellectual and equipment resources for scientific research. Here I have opportunities to collaborate and work with the most talented people from diverse backgrounds. That’s how I partnered with an excellent entomologist from the Biosciences Area and received a highly competitive extramural grant, my first independent grant, from the Department of Defense.
What does your current scientific project or research entail?
My current research mainly focuses on environmental issues of emerging contaminants which means my colleagues and I apply terrestrial plants and soil invertebrates to assess the environmental toxicity of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals and are considered ‘forever chemicals’ in the environment, so we look for environmentally friendly and less toxic alternatives.
What have you been most proud of in your work?
I have been mentoring several undergraduate students, many of them female. I am proud to be a STEM mentor for this next generation of talented scientists. As an example, I hired one of my previous interns as a student assistant for my project, and wrote strong recommendation letters for her to apply for external internship programs. Subsequently, she was accepted by a summer internship program at UCSF and also received a student travel award for a national conference.
How can our community engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM?
Berkeley Lab has many internship programs for undergraduate and graduate students. I think those are very good opportunities to attract diverse and talented students in STEM. I’ve appreciated collaborating with these programs to hire great talent to join my project.
When you reflect on your time so far at the Lab, what is the greatest contribution it has made to you and your life?
At Berkeley Lab, I have the opportunity to work with people of diverse backgrounds and cultures. My colleagues span continents and this cultural diversity is a major benefit: it improves my creativity, widens my knowledge and skills, and improves my cultural insights.