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Women @ Energy: Linda Valerio

March 14, 2013 - 11:04am

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Mrs. Linda Valerio is a Mechanical Engineer here at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.  She specializes in planning, design, and installation of particle accelerator beam line and vacuum systems.

Mrs. Linda Valerio is a Mechanical Engineer here at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. She specializes in planning, design, and installation of particle accelerator beam line and vacuum systems.

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Linda Valerio is a Mechanical Engineer at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.  She specializes in planning, design, and installation of particle accelerator beam line and vacuum systems. She began her employment at Fermilab as an engineering college student through the cooperative education program and was then hired full-time after graduation.  Her early roles included designing beam instrumentation devices and supporting upgrade projects for various particle accelerators and experiments, including the Main Injector, Recycler, Tevatron, and Antiproton Rings/Target Hall.  As a result of her experience and leadership skills, she went on to serve several years as the lead operations engineer for the Main Injector, Recycler, and Pelletron machines. Currently, she is assigned as the Main Injector/Recycler Installation Engineer for the NoVA/ANU project and is the primary engineer responsible for the installation of two new accelerator transfer beam lines and other significant upgrades. Linda is also recognized and respected for her knowledge in ultra-high vacuum systems and R&D endeavors in titanium nitride beam tube coating.

1)  What inspired you to work in STEM?

I enjoyed high school physics class and decided to pursue engineering after my teacher recommended it and I researched what it was. I did not know even one engineer, so it was definitely not clear what I was getting myself into. I also did not realize until later that women don’t typically do this type of work. I just knew I wanted to improve lives through innovation, and it has turned out to be a great fit for me.

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

The variety! When I talk to people about the work that I do, it is difficult to explain because every project is so different. I've worked on beam instrumentation projects that require extraordinary precision and include components smaller than a human hair. In contrast, I've also planned large installations consisting mainly of multi-ton magnets and ultra-high vacuum systems, which reside in the miles of our underground tunnels. Fermilab is a unique and exciting workplace. Some of the world's greatest scientific ideas are being explored, and it is extremely satisfying to know that my work contributes to new discoveries and technologies.  While the value of our discoveries may not be obvious to the general public, they require development of advanced technologies that can directly benefit society.

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

STEM outreach programs in schools are a great start.  Through Fermilab, I’ve volunteered for several STEM outreach programs, and I definitely see the value of those experiences, especially since I never had that opportunity as a student.  STEM careers can be very intimidating, but a little encouragement along with witnessing the enthusiasm of people enjoying those careers seems to really awaken the underlying interest in young students.  In particular for females, a culture shift from our workforce may be necessary.  It seems to be a common perception that young women will not be allowed to have high-level jobs and still be able to raise a family.  If our workforce typically allowed more flexible hours or part-time work in STEM careers (for both men and women), more young women especially may choose to study and remain working in these fields.

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

STEM careers are both challenging and rewarding.  If someone has enough interest to pursue this type of work, his or her determination will be the biggest factor for success.  I highly recommend doing internships, co-operative education, or other work programs while still in school to get a broader sense of the career that has been chosen. 

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

I enjoy spending time with my husband and young daughter, bicycling, and photography.  I’m also a violinist with the DuPage Symphony Orchestra and at my church.

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