Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Pengcheng Fu

Computational Earth Scientist

Atmospheric, Earth, and Energy Division

May 15, 2020

What do you like about working at the Lab?

I enjoy the great variety of opportunities the Lab offers. Every day, we work with experts in different fields. If we want to, we could mentor students and postdocs or even teach as adjuncts at universities. I also appreciate the support from managers, admins, and peer scientists. I became the principal investigator (PI) on some projects that were developed by senior staff members and handed to me as growth opportunities.

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

I roughly evenly divide my work time among three kinds of activities. First, I attend various meetings and discussions related to projects that I lead or contribute to. This includes meeting students, postdocs, and junior staff members as a formal or informal mentor. Second, I write: emails, slides, proposals, papers, etc. The rest of the time, I write code/scripts and run simulations. I typically travel for work-related business a handful to a dozen times each year.

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

I am working on a geothermal field experiment called “EGS Collab” with scientists from nine national labs and several universities. We are doing some very cool experiments in an abandoned gold mine in South Dakota (about one mile deep), and we get to observe subsurface processes from a close distance. Throughout the project, I’ve gotten to know and become friends with many colleagues from other labs.

What is your educational or career background?

I got my PhD in civil engineering from UC Davis. My training there was on geotechnical engineering, basically dealing with earth materials like dirt and rocks. I learned coding in graduate school as a personal hobby. Interestingly, my postdoc interview seminar was on my hobby project, not my dissertation work.

I’ve worked at the Lab for 10 years.

What inspired you to go into your field of work?

Subsurface is inherently difficult to observe and study. There is so much to do and learn.

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

Be open-minded; keep learning new things and working on new subjects; keep writing; feel free to seek support.

What are your hobbies/what do you do in your free time?

I play with my two sons, and I like to read and watch movies. I occasionally work on small building projects in the house or in the yard.

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