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Women @ Energy: Lila Chase

January 29, 2014 - 1:01pm


Lila Chase is a computer scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Lila Chase is a computer scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

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Lila Chase is a computer scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).In her nearly 40 years of service she has contributed to software applications development in areas of weapons, medical physics, and combustion modeling. She contributed to the team that won the 1993 DOE Weapons Recognition of Excellence Award:  Technical Excellence in Weapons Codes and to another team effort that won the 1999 R&D 100 Award for development of the  Peregrine Radiation Dose Calculation System.

After 16 years of being an independent contributor, she assumed the role of group leading computer scientists in her area.  For the past dozen years she participated as a member of the High Energy Density Physics summer committee, helping choose the best students from around the country to spend the summer at LLNL working on interesting projects while learning about work at the laboratory.

1)  What inspired you to work in STEM?

After an excellent high school math teacher showed me how easy math was, I completed my Bachelors in mathematics and taught in Peace Corps Uganda and Malaysia. The lack of teaching opportunities upon returning led me to LLNL.

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

The opportunity to work on important problems that have a broad impact.

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

Parents have a primary role in opening up possibilities for their children and in equally encouraging them. I am grateful that my mom did not discriminate which of her children could pursue a higher education. We also need stronger role models in education. Laboratory scientists have long participated in educational efforts to re-energize high school teachers in the sciences.

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

Identify an aptitude area that you are passionate about, build a solid foundational core, and find opportunities to learn by doing.  After securing a position, commit to excellence and lifelong learning.  Be patient and persistent as you progress toward your goals.

One more thing: Men can be good role models as well. Combustion Physicist Charlie Westbrook always took the time to explain how my contributions enabled his work. Understanding the context of your work is a great motivator. Weapons Physicist Bill Chandler excelled at explaining complex concepts in an understandable way; he believed in keeping it simple.

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

 Gardening and Tai Chi.