Biosciences and Biotechnology Division
Biosciences and Biotechnology Division
September 23, 2021
What do you like about working at the Lab?
I like the amount of freedom I have to explore new ideas, and there is a constant flow of opportunities to learn new concepts, even new hands-on skills in the lab. I really value the diverse cross section of engineers, theoretical chemists, microbiologists, and statisticians, etc. that I get to interact with. We have world-class facilities collocated, which means we can create unique combinations of capabilities to do impactful science.
What do your day-to-day work activities include?
I wear different hats at the Lab, both leading and supporting interdisciplinary teams developing novel nanocarbon materials—like carbon nanotubes—for a range of applications including gas sensors, anti-reflective surfaces, super-strong fibers, energy storage, and 3D-printed composites. I feel most at home when I am in the lab creating materials, analyzing their structures, and finding new ways to incorporate them into functional systems. Day to day, I may be operating a high-temperature reactor to grow some neat material, or I could be at a synchrotron collecting X-ray patterns, or I could be stuck in front of a computer with piles of data, spreadsheets, and emails.
What is one project you’re really proud to have worked on?
I am really proud of our work investigating high-performance ionic liquid electrolytes confined inside carbon nanopores that are used in next-generation energy storage devices. We coupled synchrotron x-ray scattering and high-fidelity simulations to analyze this special class of electrolytes under confinement, enabling new insights into the exotic properties that only emerge within these exceptionally small spaces. We were able to uncover some key fundamental insights that have important practical implications, which puts us in a unique position to think more about how these insights can benefit real applications.
What is your educational or career background?
I have encountered some diverse topics in my career, which I think has helped me survive at the Lab. I studied engineering physics at the University of California at Berkeley (Go Bears!) and both materials science and engineering and mechanical engineering in graduate school at the University of Michigan (Go Blue!). Prior to joining LLNL, I was a postdoctoral fellow in nanoelectronics at IMEC in Belgium. Now I work in the BioNanomaterials Group in BBTD and wonder what other fields I can dip my toes into next.
What inspired you to go into science?
What drew me to chemistry and physics in high school was finding that there were math equations that could describe the physical world around us. My entire path from there did not reveal itself all at once, but more stepwise. I have always been driven to attack with full force that next most challenging experience ahead of me. What remains hugely challenging and captivating to me is how to engineer materials at the smallest length scales at which they are fundamentally determined, atom by atom.
What advice would you give to a new employee at the Lab?
Talk to people—not just neighbors and not just peers. My experience is that it was vital to get to know what my colleagues are good at, what science they are really interested in, and what other opportunities exist in and out of the Lab. It is also great practice for me to talk about my science to others not familiar with it. Some of my favorite projects right now were born out of key interactions with people I don’t normally work with—like trading notes with a fellow cleanroom user or bugging points of contact about who at the Lab was responding to a proposal call so I can join forces with them.
What do you do in your free time?
I really enjoy playing basketball and chess, being at the beach and biking with my family, and nearly any ridiculous game my daughter comes up with. I also love snowboarding but don’t get to do it nearly enough.
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