Faith Dukes

The Visible Spectrum series spotlights talented and dedicated women employees across the Lab

November 5, 2020

Faith Dukes holds a doctorate in physical chemistry and acts as the manager of K-12 STEM education and outreach programs at the Lab. Through her role, she is also an advocate for removing barriers and helping students find their way into STEM majors and professions.

Outside of the Lab, Faith is an avid boxer after joining a mixed martial arts gym while in graduate school. She notes: “Boxing was the best way to stop thinking about failing experiments and focus on what was right in front of me. I've continued boxing for the past eight years and it's a great outlet. If anyone has the time, they'll be able to find my one and only boxing match online.”

What inspired you to work at Berkeley Lab?

My position as Manager of K-12 STEM Education and Outreach Programs combines a number of my passions. I love learning about cutting-edge scientific research, which I get to hear about every day at the Lab. Prior to the Lab, I was a Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the National Science Foundation, which cultivated my interest in seeing how our government supports fundamental scientific research and innovation. Since my position is located within the Government and Community Relations Office, I’m able to learn about DOE's approach to STEM education at the federal level.

Finally, I'm an advocate for removing barriers and helping students find their way into STEM majors and professions. This position is the perfect combination of all of my experiences and passions in one place and I could not think of a better place than Berkeley Lab to continue to grow and learn.

What excites you about your work at the Lab?

Everything excites me about my work but I think being able to continuously learn and hear feedback are two things that keep me going.

Every day brings something new. Today, I may listen to someone speak about their work using supercomputers to detect extreme weather phenomena and the next day, I get to listen to the students in the Berkeley Lab Director's Apprenticeship Program talk about how they used the Materials Project to design a car. Someone may email me to learn more about star formation because of a program we developed and then another high school student may email that they have decided to consider majoring in microbiology because they were inspired by a career talk given by Romy Chakraborty as a part of the SAGE-S program. All of these are true stories!

The most exciting thing about the work I do at the Lab is thinking about how it could possibly change lives and encourage students to consider a pathway they may have been discouraged from taking or never knew about in the first place. Every day, I'm excited that I get to hear about the amazing discoveries taking place at the Lab and work to ensure we have another generation of scientists that are ready when needed.

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

Someone in my field of work needs to see things from the perspective of the researcher and understand how we can use different platforms and tools of communication to disseminate that work to a broad audience.

Graduate school gave me experiences in scientific research, analytical thinking, and project management. However, my work outside the laboratory helped me hone my science communication and event planning skills. I worked with a program that supplemented the science curriculum in middle schools for five years and helped coordinate a girls conference for ten years. Those specific extracurricular activities gave me experiences in educational pedagogy, fundraising, grant writing, volunteer management, and digital media marketing.

I would encourage anyone who wants to transition to outreach and education to move beyond volunteering for single events and really focus their attention on an organization where they are able to gain more responsibility and build significant experience in content development, delivery, and organization.

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

It’s wonderful that so many people are motivated to do outreach right now. I would encourage those interested to seek out opportunities from the programs that are hosted by the K-12 team within our Government and Community Relations Office as well as the Workforce Development and Education Office, which is doing wonderful work with community college and undergraduate students.

These offices have worked hard to gain trust within communities and studied best practices when engaging groups that have been historically marginalized. Programs within both offices need mentors, volunteers, and project ideas that will help support sustained connections with students.

Once engaged, our volunteers and mentors must be ready to provide welcoming spaces that encourage exploration, allow for mistakes, and teach fundamental skills that help students see themselves as STEM professionals.