Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Becky Lindsey

Computational Chemist

Materials Science Division

August 10, 2020

What do you like about your job?

I love the ever-evolving nature of my work and seemingly endless opportunities. At least once annually, I find myself thinking, “five years ago I would never have imagined I’d be doing this!” I also value the human aspect of work at the Lab. Whether it’s through interactions in my highly multidisciplinary teams, senior research staff with comprehensive practical experience and research perspective, chance meetings in the cafeteria, or post-seminar discussions, I find myself learning something new every single day.

What do your day-to-day work activities include?

My typical workday includes attending meetings and seminars, impromptu science “chats” with colleagues, and paper/proposal writing, in addition to my usual research activities (automating development of machine-learned models, studying materials under extreme conditions through atomistic simulations, guiding experimental design for enhanced enhance understanding of age-related changes in material performance, etc.). I also travel frequently to attend and speak at research conferences.

What is one project you’re really proud to have worked on?

The Laboratory Directed Research and Development project “Characterizing Carbon Nucleation in Shocked Energetic Materials” was very exciting to work on. This project brought together cutting-edge experiments, simulation, and theory to resolve decades-old questions surrounding formation of nanocarbon from shock-compressed, carbon-rich materials.

My contributions included developing a machine-learned interatomic model, which allowed me to run the first atomistically resolved simulations of condensed-phase reaction-driven phase separation. These large-scale simulations (over one million atoms) have provided microscopic insights into the mechanisms driving shock-induced carbon condensation.

What is your educational or career background?

After obtaining a BS in chemical engineering, I earned a MS and PhD in chemical physics, leveraging statistical mechanics and molecular simulation to elucidate microscopic phenomena governing chemical separation processes. I first came to LLNL as a postdoctoral researcher, where I began studying materials under extreme conditions through atomistic simulations.

What inspired you to go into science?

I fell in love with chemistry after the first class I took in high school, and for as long as I can remember, I have been passionate about building things, fixing things, solving problems, and computers. When I realized there was a career path that could combine those passions (i.e. computational chemistry, which for me involves code development, method development, simulation, and chemistry), there was no looking back.

What advice would you give to a new employee at the Lab?

Talk to everyone, try everything at least once, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

What do you do in your free time?

In my free time, I enjoy strength training, hiking, playing bass, painting, and struggling to keep my meager herb garden alive. I’m also a member of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory Women’s Association.