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Women @ Energy: Dawn Munson

March 11, 2013 - 5:19pm


Dawn Munson is a Mechanical Engineer for the Engineering Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt.

Dawn Munson is a Mechanical Engineer for the Engineering Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt.

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Dawn Munson is a Mechanical Engineer at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where her work is primarily focused on manufacturing processes and project management. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Dawn worked at The Boeing Company for a short period before joining Berkeley Lab in 1997. As part of the Engineering Division, she has worked on multiple high profile projects including the current effort to build 35 permanent magnet undulators for the LCLS-II project being installed at Stanford’s SLAC facility. Her project experience has included hands on work with the machinists and technicians involved in the effort. Dawn has been the Chair of the Professional Development sub-group of the Women Scientists and Engineers Council at LBNL. She was the 2012 recipient of the LBNL Director’s Award for Exceptional Diversity Achievement, and has long worked to further the role of women and girls in the STEM fields. Featured in The International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE) 2010 planning calendar, she traveled with members and leaders of SPIE to Washington D.C. in the spring of 2010 for the 15th annual Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day to discuss the importance of STEM education and science funding with elected officials.

1) What inspires you to work in STEM?

I spent all of my youth asking, "Why?" And, "How did they do that?" I have been endlessly fascinated with bridges, machines, packaging, and the process of how things go together. I chose a career in engineering at the age of 15 when, after two years of mechanical drafting, I decided that machines and their parts really interested me. I was fortunate enough to have high school teachers who challenged and encouraged me to pursue a STEM career. I continue to be interested in how mechanical systems work and have found real stimulation in manufacturing oversight.

2) What excites you about your work at the Energy Department/Berkeley Lab?

Working with the exceptional individuals at LBNL is interesting on a daily basis. There are constant opportunities to work on different projects in different scientific areas. Being a part of world-class science is truly exciting!

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

Engaging more girls and other underrepresented groups in STEM will necessitate a thorough review and revision of the country's education system. Overcrowded classrooms and overburdened teachers often results in the loss of promising future STEM candidates early in the learning process. Re-instituting apprenticeship and trades programs should be a top priority. These programs will also need to actively seek & encourage women/girls to take part. Once in a STEM education system or career, role models, mentoring programs and support for real work/life-balance is vital.

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

Study. Stand tall. Actively seek mentors and coaches; nurture those relationships. Ask questions. Try not to worry about what others think of your questions; most people are really interested and invested in what they do and are excited to talk about it. Look at the big picture. Seek opportunities and pursue them. Be respectful, everyone deserves a base level of respect, until proven wrong. Be up front and honest with everyone. Try to be on reasonable terms with everyone; it all comes back to you. Be proud of your accomplishments.

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

Visiting machine shops in foreign countries! I love to travel, exploring new places and cultures; I also invariably end up in a local machine shop. In between trips and work, I build and cultivate my personal and professional networks. I enjoy hosting dinner parties, walking my dog, running with friends, whaleboat rowing, and spending time with my husband.