Today at Berkeley Lab

Lab Launches Early Career Development LDRDs, and Early Career Enrichment Program

By Theresa Duque

Berkeley Lab is launching two efforts to help early career scientists further their research at the Lab, and to bring together a diverse group of scientists at a formative state in their careers.

Ten scientists from research areas across the Lab have been awarded new Early Career Development awards, as part of the Laboratory-Directed Research and Development (LDRD) Program.

In addition, these scientists – along with the Lab’s five Department of Energy Office of Science Early Career Research Program award recipients announced earlier this year – will participate in a year-long Early Career Enrichment Program (ECEP) geared toward broadening their exposure to the Lab’s programs and operations, and showing them how to use the Lab’s capabilities and assets to tackle important science and technology challenges. (The Enrichment Program will also include two other Lab faculty scientists who won DOE Early Career awards through UC Berkeley.)

“These programs will help nurture early-career scientists, which is central to our long-term success,” said Horst Simon, the Lab’s Deputy Director for Research. “Through these new programs, we want to help them advance their scientific careers and prepare them for the world of collaborative research.”

Early Career Development LDRD Program: A push toward independence

The Early Career Development track within the LDRD Program is intended to help Lab scientists begin leading their own research, and could help them prepare to compete for DOE-funded awards such as the DOE Early Career Research Program awards.

“Many of them are ready to turn their own ideas into a program, but they don’t have the means to do that at the Lab without being under the direction of a senior scientist,” said Simon. “The Early Career LDRD gives them an opportunity to be on their own and show what they can do.”

By helping scientists in the early stages of their career, this LDRD could also help the Lab diversify the recruiting pipeline for its scientific workforce, he added. According to the Lab’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion office, women make up about 26 percent of the Lab’s 459 postdocs, but of the Lab’s 120 senior scientists, only 15 percent are women. “How can we help to maintain the diversity that we have in our postdoc population at all levels of our scientific staff? This new LDRD program might help us address that question,” he said.

The award will fund each scientist’s salary and research expenses for the next two years, with a progress review after the first year. This year’s winners are listed below along with their areas, divisions, and research topics:

  • Peter Agbo (Energy Sciences Area, Chemical Sciences Division), “Bio-Inspired Strategies for Enhancing CO2 Reduction at Semiconductor-Liquid Junctions”
  • Hanna Marie Breunig (Energy Technologies Area, Energy Analysis and Environmental Impacts Division), “Mitigating Fossil Fuel and Microbial Methane With New Materials for Distributed Energy Generation”
  • Heather Lynn Crawford (Physical Sciences Area, Nuclear Science Division), “Pushing the Limits of HPGe Detector Performance: Rate and Position Resolution”
  • Emiley Eloe-Fadrosh (Biosciences Area, Joint Genome Institute), “Harnessing Microbiome Data to Uncover Patterns of Microbial Mutualism”
  • Zachary Marshall (Physical Sciences Area, Physics Division), “Next-Generation Data-Intensive Analysis Framework for High Energy and Nuclear Physics on HPCs”
  • Juliane Mueller (Computing Sciences Area, Computational Research Division), “Algorithms for Computationally Expensive Black-Box Optimization Under Uncertainty”
  • Simon Roux (Biosciences Area, Joint Genome Institute), “High-Throughput Resolution of Viral-Host Linkages”
  • Anna Spurlock (Energy Technologies Area, Energy Analysis and Environmental Impacts Division), “A Neuroeconomics Experiment to Study Routine Transportation Decision-Making Processes and Drivers”
  • Carolin Maria Sutter-Fella (Energy Sciences Area, Chemical Sciences Division), “In Situ Investigation of Chemical Precursor Transformation: Towards a Predictive Science of Synthesis”
  • Erica Rachel Woodburn (Earth and Environmental Sciences Area, Energy Geosciences Division), “A New Approach to Predicting the Effect of Climate Extremes on California’s Water Supply”

Early Career Enrichment Program: Broadening a focused lens

The Early Career Development LDRD award recipients, along with this year’s DOE Early Career Research Program award winners from Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley, will also be part of another new program sponsored by the Lab: the Early Career Enrichment Program (ECEP), to be launched this December.

Under the ECEP, the Early Career Development LDRD and DOE Early Career Research Program award recipients will participate in a series of monthly activities designed in part toward developing connections across the Lab’s scientific areas, divisions, and user facilities. “Social interaction is important for building collaborations across scientific disciplines, and this could be a strong springboard to bring together researchers from diverse research areas,” said Kristin Balder-Froid, Head of Strategic Development and the Early Career Enrichment Program Manager.

Keeping up with the Early Careers

Over the next couple of months, we’ll be featuring the Early Career Development LDRD winners in a series of articles where they discuss how winning this award could help them get closer to solving some of our world’s biggest problems, and why Berkeley Lab is well-positioned to foster collaborative research across scientific disciplines.

We’ll also be chronicling the Early Career Enrichment Program’s kickoff in December, and highlighting key events hosted by scientific areas, divisions, and user facilities across the Lab, so stay tuned for Early Career happenings at