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Women @ Energy: Lisa Durham

April 8, 2013 - 9:47am

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Lisa Durham is a Principal Environmental Engineer with over 20 years of experience in soil and groundwater investigations, data analysis and interpretation, and environmental modeling in support of characterization, remediation, and closure at hazardous waste sites.

Lisa Durham is a Principal Environmental Engineer with over 20 years of experience in soil and groundwater investigations, data analysis and interpretation, and environmental modeling in support of characterization, remediation, and closure at hazardous waste sites.

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Lisa Durham is a Principal Environmental Engineer with over 20 years of experience in soil and groundwater investigations, data analysis and interpretation, and environmental modeling in support of characterization, remediation, and closure at hazardous waste sites. She works with federal agencies in providing technical direction and oversight to multiple radiological and chemical contaminated sites that are in various phases of the assessment, remediation, and closure process. She manages the Laboratory’s support of the decommissioning activities at the West Valley Demonstration Project. Lisa’s expertise includes managing, developing, and implementing innovative remediation technologies and web-based data management tools to support characterization and remedial actions at hazardous waste sites. Lisa was a 2012 Women in Science and Technology (WIST) Diversity Award Recipient at Argonne.  This award was created to recognize individuals who have made exceptional contributions to diversity at the Laboratory. Lisa was celebrated as an advocate for nurturing and encouraging young girls in science, technology, engineering and math careers. She has co-chaired the luncheon for Argonne’s "Science Careers in Search of Women" for a decade and has been a member of Argonne’s WIST Program Office.  Lisa earned a B.S. in Geological Engineering from Texas A&M University and a M.S. in Geosciences from Purdue University.

1) What inspired you to work in STEM?

In high school my favorite subjects were mathematics and science. In retrospect I was fortunate to have excellent math and science teachers. I especially liked the science classes that involved nature field trips and hands on problem-solving activities. When I started college I did not know what I was going to major in but I knew it would be in a STEM field. One of my uncles who is a geologist was instrumental in helping me to find a summer intern position at a major oil company - in the research and development area. I worked at the company as an intern for three consecutive summers. I found the work to be interesting – it was this experience that led me towards majoring in geology/geosciences.

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

At Argonne National Laboratory, it is rewarding  to collaborate with so many  inspiring scientists and engineers dedicated to their work. As an Environmental Engineer, I have the opportunity of developing innovative solutions for characterizing and remediating contaminated soil and groundwater at sites throughout the country. It is satisfying to know that cleaning up contaminated sites is making a small difference in the lives of many people.  

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

We must engage students early in their education and show them science and math can be fun. It is important for middle and high school girls to learn about the numerous STEM careers from teachers and mentors. For example, Argonne hosts Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day (IGED)  that provides an opportunity for middle school girls to have direct interaction with women engineers and scientists. Argonne also hosts an outreach activity, Science Careers in Search of Women (SCSW), a conference to inspire young high school women to learn about careers in STEM from women scientists and engineers.  My daughter attended IGED and the women scientists that she met motivated her to select advanced science and math high school classes to pursue a STEM degree in college. Girls need role models!

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

Be flexible, take on challenges, listen, stay open-minded, ask questions, and never pass up the opportunity to learn something new. Follow your interests and learn from your mistakes. Effective communication is essential in a STEM career so  don’t overlook taking writing and speech classes. Pursue internships!

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

 Traveling and learning about different cultures. Reading books both fiction and nonfiction, knitting, yoga, playing tennis, and spending time with my family.

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