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Women @ Energy: Annie Kersting

March 10, 2014 - 4:02pm

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Annie Kersting was first hired at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow and really enjoyed doing cutting-edge science on important problems. Photo by Julie Korhummel (LLNL)

Annie Kersting was first hired at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow and really enjoyed doing cutting-edge science on important problems. Photo by Julie Korhummel (LLNL)

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Annie Kersting was first hired at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow and really enjoyed doing cutting-edge science on important problems. Annie stayed on after completing her fellowship and is currently the director of the Glenn T. Seaborg Institute where they focus on collaborative research with the academic community in radiochemistry and nuclear forensics. The Seaborg Institute also has a strong component in the education and training of undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows in radioactive elements - actinides.  Annie is also managing a research program investigating how actinides are transported in the subsurface. Her team combines fieldwork, laboratory experiments, and modeling to determine how actinides can migrate under varying geochemical conditions.  If they can understand the dominant processes that control transport, they should be able to design systems to clean up contamination and limit subsurface migration from happening.  This fundamental research will create breakthrough solutions for environmental cleanup and nuclear waste storage.  Annie earned her PhD in geology and geophysics from University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree in geology from UC Berkeley.

1) What inspired you to work in STEM?

Like many kids of my generation, I was captivated by the moon landing and followed our space program. I always liked math and in college took one great science class after another.  I was hooked. I gravitated towards a degree in geology because I like the idea of applying math and chemistry to solving questions about our Earth. If I could do that and also be outdoors, that would be even better.

2) What excites you about working for the Energy Department?

I like working at a national laboratory because you are surrounded by smart scientists interested in solving large, complex, problems that have national significance. It is an exciting research environment.  Careers at a national laboratory usually involve working on a range of interesting, challenging problems.

3) How can our country engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM?

We need to start early, teaching science in elementary school, developing interesting STEM after school programs in middle school, and having engaging science classes in high school.  We need women role models in all kinds of STEM careers, so girls will see these as normal career paths.  We also need to somehow breakdown the negative stereotypes of women in engineering, math and science fields.

4) Do you have tips you'd recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?

Get a great education, become an expert in your field, but also consider a double major, as multidisciplinary training is really a must these days.  Take writing classes, because being able to clearly and concisely convey your thoughts in writing is a very important skill.  Don’t give up and pursue your dreams.

5) When you have free time, what are your hobbies?

I love sports, anything that gets me outdoors and into nature.  I enjoy running, climbing, backpacking, and skiing.  I also enjoy cooking, especially desserts--yum.

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