December 2, 2020

Maria Nappi is a recent arrival to the Lab, heading up the Lab’s Environment, Health and Safety Division (EHS). She comes from Los Alamos National Laboratory where she cut her teeth on Department of Energy rules and contracts as the Radiation Protection Division Leader overseeing significant actinide and research areas using significant quantities of fissile and non-fissile radioactive materials. Before that, Nappi has had more than 40 years of experience in cyclotron operation for radiopharmaceuticals, operational Health Physics, radiation protection, Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing, decommissioning, project management and waste transportation.

Nappi had the typical challenges that come with moving and changing jobs: sticker shock at housing prices, navigating Bay Area neighborhoods, and getting to know her team and the Lab. But her personal and professional move was overshadowed by the reality of doing all this during a pandemic.

When she has free time again, Nappi is looking forward to rowing. She was a competitive Master’s sweep rower for 18 years in Connecticut, winning numerous medals with her teammates before moving to New Mexico. Although she has rowed in singles a few times on Lake Merritt, she says nothing feels like the teamwork, synchronicity, and competitiveness needed for team racing.

So far your view of the Lab has been behind a face cover. What is your impression of how the Lab is handling the pandemic?

I am very impressed with the way most people have responded to the controls we have in place. It’s this pervasive safety attitude that has contributed to the low COVID-19 cases at the Lab compared to many of our sister laboratories. It’s true, people are tired of this new normal and some complacency is setting in but overall the population at the Lab still want to be sure they and others are doing the right things.

The Lab’s EHS division covers a wide variety of specialties. How did your background working at Los Alamos prepare you for this position?

It didn’t! Nothing could have prepared me for such a wide span of control under COVID -19 controls. My experience in radiation protection was a great help in setting up PPE and engineering controls to meet the pandemic. It takes common sense, following the CDC guidelines, and caring about people. I tried to put myself in their shoes since there is so much unknown and I want people to feel comfortable calling Health Services and voicing those concerns.

When you are no longer spending the majority of your time dealing with the pandemic, what are the three goals you have for the EHS team?

First, meet my team in person. There are many wonderful people and I’ve only met most two-dimensionally.

Next, evaluate roles and responsibilities in EHS, and how we communicate and collaborate with our partners to provide the best support while ensuring we meet our legal and contractual requirements. It is the responsibility of EHS to make sure that line managers have the tools to comply with all aspects of safety to succeed.

Finally, my goal is to ensure EHS is queued up to be successful in the future.

Maria, in the teal top far left, with her rowing team.