In honor of Black History Month, Chemical Sciences postdoc, Joy (Christina) Leggett, will be sharing her professional background, personal experiences, and her perspective on engaging underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.
Q: Why did you choose to work at Berkeley Lab?
A: I worked at Berkeley Lab as an undergraduate program participant in the Energy Research Undergraduate Laboratory Fellowship (ERULF), part of Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships (SULI). It was my first time in the Bay Area (and the west coast, for that matter) and I fell in love with the Lab and the Bay Area. After finishing graduate school at Berkeley, I jumped at the opportunity to return to LBL to do research.
Q: What is your educational background?
A: I have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Florida State University and a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of California – Berkeley. I currently work in the Chemical Sciences Division as part of the Actinide Chemistry Group.
Q: What inspired you to work in a STEM area?
I have been interested in science and math and had a natural curiosity about my surroundings since early childhood. I wanted to work in a STEM area because I realized early on that science and engineering were necessary to help solve many of the world’s problems such as disease, water contamination, and food and energy shortages.
Q: What excites you about your work at Berkeley Lab?
A: The exciting thing about my work is that each question answered leads to new, more exciting questions to answer. In order to answer these questions, I usually have to think outside of the box or learn a new technique or subject material. Therefore, my work never gets boring because there are always new questions to ask and new things to learn. Also, the fact that we are doing research as part of multi-institution team means that many types of fun collaborations can be made.
Q: How can our country engage more underrepresented groups in STEM?
A: Many underrepresented students only have access to inadequate or virtually non-existent STEM resources at their schools because of unequal distribution of property tax revenue. Redistributing revenue from property taxes or increasing state and federal support for these needy schools could bring needed materials (and STEM teachers) that can be used to increase awareness and interest in STEM fields. Also, it’s important for underrepresented minorities who have pursued successful careers in STEM to give back by mentoring and working with young underrepresented students. I think that many of these students believe that careers in STEM are either unattainable or pointless because they don’t see or have an opportunity to interact with successful STEM workers with similar backgrounds.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time? What are your hobbies?
When I have spare time, I enjoy reading, hiking, traveling, a good dinner and a movie, intellectual discussions with friends, playing video games, and foosball whenever I can find a table.