Dr. Rachel Segalman is currently an associate professor of Chemical Engineering at UC Berkeley and a faculty scientist in the Materials Science Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She received her BS in Chemical Engineering with highest honors from the University of Texas at Austin. She then performed her doctoral work in Chemical Engineering (polymer physics) at the University of California, Santa Barbara working with Professor Edward J. Kamer. Following her PhD, Segalman was a postdoctoral fellow at the Universite Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg France working with Professor Georges Hadziioannou on conjugated polymer synthesis. She then joined the faculty of UC Berkeley in the spring of 2004 as the Charles Wilke Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2009. Segalman’s group has performed significant work in controlling the structure and thermodynamics of functional polymers including semiconducting and bioinspired polymers. She also has interest in designing polymeric and hybrid materials for energy applications including thermoelectrics, photovoltaics, and solar fuels. Among other awards, Segalman received the 2012 Dillon Medal from the American Physical Society, is an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow and a Camille Dreyfus Teacher Scholar, and has received the Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering (PECASE), MDV Innovators Award, Hellman Family Young Faculty Award, 3M Untenured Faculty Award, NSF CAREER Award, Intel Young Faculty Seed Award, and Chateaubriand Postdoctoral Fellowship. She is also an Associate Editor for the Annual Reviews of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
1) What inspires you to work in STEM?
Scientific research is really about solving a problem or discovering something new. I find this process really exciting, particularly because it means we're always exploring something new. I also very much enjoy sharing my enthusiasm for this process with others and therefore working with students is a great joy.
2) What excites you about your work at the Energy Department/Berkeley Lab?
My group's work on developing polymers relevant for energy applications really focuses around figuring out how plastics work and how we can design new materials with special properties. In the long run, hopefully these new insights we gain will help the community design new plastic devices like thermoelectric energy generators, solar fuel cells, and many more. I am really excited about the fact that we can explore new fundamental science while also working on problems that are likely to be of societal value.
3) How can our country engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM?
I think an early and engaging introduction to science is key in getting everyone (not just girls) interested in science. In particular, I am a big fan of programs that involve hands on (experimental) modules so that kids can experience the problem solving/discovery that is at the heart of scientific research.
4) Do you have tips you would recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?
Science requires a very broad set of skills. Not only do you need to have math and science skills, you also need to be able to write and speak about your work. A well-rounded education is important for a career in science and engineering.
5) When you have free time, what are your hobbies?
I'm not sure that raising my children counts as a hobby, but right now my favorite thing to do is spend time with my kids. We enjoy exploring the Bay Area as a family and also like to take on family weekend projects (like cooking or gardening).