Lara D. Leininger, Ph.D. has been a full-time Engineer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) for over 14 years with experience as a Computational Analyst, Principal Investigator, and Program Manager of the Joint DoD / DOE Munitions Technology Development Program.
Lara D. Leininger, Ph.D. has been a full-time Engineer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) for over 14 years with experience as a Computational Analyst, Principal Investigator, and Program Manager of the Joint DoD / DOE Munitions Technology Development Program. She has contributed to a variety of projects, in various roles and levels of responsibility, to solve technical problems that often have a great deal of uncertainty, and a high risk of failure.
Lara was also employed for over 2 years as a full-time Managing Engineer at Hinman Consulting Engineers in San Francisco. Hinman is a small consulting firm that specializes in Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection (AT/FP) and blast consulting for a range of projects. Lara’s responsibilities included military facility design and upgrade, high threat/high risk developments for international clients, and federally-owned facilities), managing technical innovation, and staff management. Lara earned her Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis, in Computational Engineering Mechanics, her M.S. from Stanford University in Thermosciences and Microdevices, and her B.S. from the University of California, Santa Barbara in Mechanical Engineering.
1) What inspired you to work in STEM?
My father is a petroleum engineer and I always knew that I would be an engineer too, so a career in STEM was given. As a young girl, I was always very curious - on a trip to the Los Angles Children’s Museum I saw a display on airfoil shapes for airplane wings and their characteristics for lift which defied the laws of gravity. I was hooked. I wanted to work in a field that engineers solutions and challenges the laws of physics (like gravity).
2) What excites you about your work?
At the NNSA National Labs we are at the forefront of technology and innovation. This develops a community of camaraderie and friendly completion. If you have a technical challenge, there is likely someone in the complex who is a Subject Matter Expert. This makes the work so exciting because our impact as a scientific community to solve problems can be tremendous.
3) How can our country engage more women, girls and other underrepresented groups in STEM?
Women in STEM are a community. Many of us found ourselves in STEM fields because we had a father, mother, or mentor in the field. In the U.S., we are making strides to engage more women, girls, and underrepresented groups in STEM by encouraging opportunities for exposure, but we could always do more. As a STEM community, we owe it to each other to reach out, and I would recommend anyone interested in STEM to seek out a mentor.
4) Do you have tips you'd recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?
Don’t try to go it alone. Some women and girls feel insecure about asking questions when they don’t understand, and that could leave them in a position to fall behind. Don’t ever underestimate yourself or your potential! Keep asking questions until you understand. Support others when they are asking questions. Support each other. Learn how to work as a team.
5) When you have free time, what are your hobbies?
In my free time I enjoy running and staying fit by participating in marathons and triathlons. I look forward to long runs with my dog and daughter in tow. My husband and I also enjoy making our own wine and sharing it with friends and family.