Today at Berkeley Lab

Passion for Promoting Lab Via Social Media, Photography and Disc Golf Drives Kelly Owen

— By Keri Troutman

kelly-twoBerkeley Lab’s social media specialist, Kelly Owen, would like you to know what social media can do for you. She’ll throw in a disc golf lesson too, if you’re interested. She’s that passionate about both.

Owen saw the potential of social media before it was a given, while working as a senior web editor at Fox Sports in North Carolina back in 2007. The company wasn’t initially convinced of the merits of social media, but by the time Owen left Fox Sports in 2012, she had led Fox into the forefront of social media sports coverage, teaching workshops on how to follow their lead.

After a breast cancer diagnosis in 2011, Owen gained a new perspective on work, life, and the importance of the synergy between the two. She’d seen how social media with a social conscience in action—donating her skills and time to help coordinate volunteers and donations after the Gulf Oil Spill—and that was where she wanted to take her career.

“When you’re faced with something like cancer, your priorities get rearranged,” Owen says. “I love social media, but felt like selling NASCAR and Formula One racing wasn’t making a difference.”

Owen made the leap cross-country and landed here at Berkeley Lab in 2013 in a position where she says she genuinely feels like she is giving back. “Our strategy is to showcase the science that’s done at the Lab to everyone around the world and let them know why its important to not just the science world and to government interests, but to their daily lives,” she says. “Things like cancer research breakthroughs and smart solar windows… these are the things that help us gain visibility.”

Given its breadth, social media is a way to reach a much wider audience than more traditional media, Owen says. “I think people are generally interested in science but sometimes it takes a little spark for them to realize this; social media is a great tool for that spark,” she comments. “Providing intriguing, hopeful, legitimate content that people “feel” directly affects or may affect them creates that spark.”

Owen points out that even something as simple as a beautiful image can have a major impact for an organization on social media. “Posts with photos see the highest engagement rates, across all platforms,” she says. “Look at the simplicity of Instagram and the success that company has seen, all purely based on imaging.”

Photography happens to be Owen’s second career, and something she’s been interested in since she was a child and her grandfather (a WWII photographer) introduced her to the wonders of a darkroom. She particularly loves landscape photography, but has also shot a lot of concerts and other journalistic work, including the recent protests in Berkeley, for various clients. If you follow the Lab’s Instagram account (, you’ve certainly seen her work.

Owen has already met with a multitude of Lab scientists to explain how social media can help their work. “I challenge you to find someone who’s not on social media in some capacity,” she says. “If you can get in front of someone and spark their interest one time, they’ll follow you from then on.”


Her enthusiasm for the power of social media flows into her personal life as well, where Owen uses it to connect with friends, family, and her local community and to promote one of her latest passions, disc golf. Cancer was also the impetus for her entry into the world of disc golf; after playing competitive co-ed flag football for many years, she knew she needed a new sport that didn’t involve as much rough contact after her diagnosis. “At first, I laughed when someone suggested disc golf,” she said. “But after sinking that first putt, I was totally hooked.”

Owen really enjoys what she terms the “hippy culture” around disc golf, and the beautiful outdoor scenery that’s usually part of a game. She competed and placed well in a number of disc golf tournaments on the West coast as well as back East. Though she says there aren’t as many good courses close to the Bay Area as there were near Charlotte, North Carolina, Owen recommends San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and Novato’s Stafford Lake Park courses. She’s a member of the PDGA, the Golden Gate disc golf club, and a Sacramento-based disc golf club and strives to get out to play at least once a week.

You can check out Owen’s photography at
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