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Women @ Energy: Jennifer Steeb

March 29, 2013 - 3:27pm


Jennifer Steeb is an assistant chemist in the National Security theme within the Chemical Science and Engineering Division at Argonne National Laboratory.

Jennifer Steeb is an assistant chemist in the National Security theme within the Chemical Science and Engineering Division at Argonne National Laboratory.

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Jennifer Steeb is an assistant chemist in the National Security theme within the Chemical Science and Engineering Division at Argonne National Laboratory. In 2006, Jennifer completed her bachelor degree in chemistry from the University of Miami. Following her undergraduate degree, she completed her Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2010, where she was a named Nuclear Forensics Graduate Fellow with joint sponsorship from Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense (DHS/DOD). Jennifer originally joined Argonne National Laboratory in 2010 as a postdoctoral appointee, where she was awarded a three year Nuclear Forensics Postdoctoral Fellowship sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office – National Technical Nuclear Forensics Center (DHS-DNDO-NTNFC).  As an assistant chemist, she is currently working on method development for age-dating radiological sealed sources and exploratory studies on uranium morphology for nuclear forensics.

1) What inspired you to work in STEM?

I was inspired to be involved in science at a very young age, starting in elementary school. Science fair participation in the school district I attended was mandatory starting at the 2nd grade level. I recognized that I loved to complete the experimental part of the science fair with my father, but at the time I hated cutting gluing, and designing the board; I loved to only do experiments and testing all day! My parents recognized how much I loved to participate in the experimental side of science fair (and how much I hated to cut and paste construction paper!), and encouraged me to stay involved in science-related activities. It wasn’t until taking my first high school chemistry class that I fully realized it was possible to make a career of doing “experiments all day”; this is when knew I wanted to be a chemist. My high school chemistry teacher was also a fantastic role model and encouraged me to continue in college.  

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

My father was in the United States Air Force, so it was instilled to me at a young age to serve my country by any means possible. After identifying that I loved chemistry, it was a natural choice to channel that desire into a career. Working at Argonne National Laboratory as a staff scientist provides me the opportunity to apply my knowledge in chemistry to solve challenging problems in the interest of meeting the needs of the Department of Energy’s national security mission. It is very gratifying to work in teams that advance the U.S. capability to perform nuclear forensics, knowing that the end result contributes to the ultimate goal of keeping our nation safe. Every day I work on something different, whether it involves starting a new experiment or learning a different analytical technique. It never gets dull!

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

My vision for inspiring future women in science is in a multi-tiered level structure. Level one starts in elementary school with exposure, for example science fairs, where parents can help their children see how much fun it can actually be. Level two starts in middle school, where girls are exposed to women currently in the field of science and talk with them about the importance of engaging in STEM careers. Level three starts in high school, with technical advice and guidance on what classes to take in high school and how to continue on the STEM track in college. Argonne does a fantastic job by hosting Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day (IGED) once a year to inspire girls at the middle school level, and Science Careers in Search of Women (SCSW) to inspire girls in high school transitioning to college. These are two great examples that can be used across the country to encourage more women to enter into a STEM career.

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

Surf the internet for opportunities! We are more and more becoming a society defined by our connections (whether it be on the internet, networking, and collaborating), and we need to use this to our advantage. Fellowships and internships establish lifelong relationships that can help you get into the STEM field. The fellowships that I have been awarded in the past haven’t been handed to me or magically appeared; all have originated from me researching and searching the internet for possible opportunities.

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

In my free time, my husband and I love to watch collegiate sports and professional baseball. I am an avid follower of both alma mater teams (Miami Hurricanes and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets) and die-hard Atlanta Braves fan. If I am not in the lab, I’m watching the game!