Natasha nelson

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

October 27, 2022

As the business manager for the Energy Technologies Area (ETA), Natasha Nelson enables successful scientific research by handling the mechanics of business operations in collaboration with the area team. Her day-to-day business and administrative responsibilities include working closely with the Area Operations Deputy and Associate Lab Director (ALD) to coordinate and support the execution of critical programmatic and managerial activities area-wide.

Outside of the Lab, Natasha enjoys hiking and traveling, frequently combining the two. In the next few years, she hopes to summit Mt. Whitney and possibly Mt. Kilimanjaro. And she has a lot of fun spending time with friends and family, especially with her twin baby nieces!

What inspired you to work at Berkeley Lab?

I joined the Lab over 11 years ago because I was thrilled to join a team that focuses on helping the world by finding novel ways to reduce carbon emissions, bring clean water in economically viable ways to diverse communities, to revolutionize the energy storage landscape and so much more. While I myself am not a scientist, I am excited to play a foundational role in the scientific process. What motivates me to excel is knowing that business operations enable scientific discovery. Without operations, you can’t get impactful research done. I feel incredibly lucky that I have always worked with leadership teams who understand and value this relationship.

Being a part of something bigger than myself and working with people whose values are well-aligned with mine has been incredibly rewarding.

What have you been most proud of in your work?

I am extremely proud to be part of an organization whose work is mission and values-driven - scientific exploration that aims to make the world a better place, and I am particularly proud to develop and maintain business operational practices which support research and enable scientific innovation.

One milestone that stands out was when I worked with ETA leadership and safety teams to help to keep operations going during public safety power shutdowns in October 2019, which shut down the Lab for the first time in history - twice in one month; and then throughout the COVID pandemic starting in March 2020. We have had to be nimble, mobilize quickly, and keep people safe while finding ways to conduct research in situations we have never experienced before. I helped create and implement new tracking systems, develop communications and associated plans for updates to internal and external audiences (e.g., funders), all the while ensuring that daily business operations continue with minimal disruption. The ultimate impact is that over 100 labs were safely re-opened as quickly, efficiently and safely as possible. It’s amazing to be a part of such a huge effort which can only be done well with team work!

I am so proud to be part of an organization whose work is mission and values-driven to make the world a better place, and one that is striving to nurture and develop the IDEA pillars in our work environment and research portfolio.

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

Lean into your intellect and have a sense of agency. Critical thinking and clear communications will enable you to succeed in business operations. Successful operations help scientists to make meaningful research breakthroughs. We provide an operational foundation upon which they conduct their work. Remembering the importance of this symbiotic relationship will keep you motivated and help you to keep your priorities straight.

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

I’ve found the Lab’s K-12 STEM Education & Outreach Programs offer great ways to do this. For example, I recently volunteered to review the resumes of select students from Pinole Valley High School which I really enjoyed. Additionally, developing one-on-one connections with students can have tremendous impact. I continue to mentor a young woman from my alma mater El Cerrito High School (Go Gauchos!) by helping her to learn how to study. She developed powerful skills and motivation which positioned her well to graduate high school with a solid GPA. She’s now attending Berkeley City College and on track for earning a bachelor’s degree, the first member of her family to do so.

Above: Natasha with her baby niece Asha (twin sister not pictured)