- Ph.D in radiochemistry, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
- MS in chemistry, University of Idaho
- BS in chemistry, physics minor, Idaho State University
Senior Research Scientist, Idaho National Laboratory (INL)
Research areas include actinide separations and speciation in the investigation of actinides and lanthanides for the expansion of new technologies for used nuclear fuel recycling and nuclear national security.
Why did you choose the nuclear field or how did you end up in the nuclear field?
I would say that the nuclear field chose me. As I was completing my undergraduate degree in chemistry, I was hired as an INL summer intern, and my mentor was a radiochemist. Over the course of that summer, I fell in love with radiochemistry and all the amazing things nuclear energy could bring to the world. My mentor was a driving force in my career as a radiochemist, and I credit him with providing the building blocks that formed the base of my career, which has spanned two and half decades of research, technological advances, and patents. My mentor taught me to be a world-class scientist and mentor, and I honor his memory by paying it forward to the next generation of women in nuclear.
What advice do you have for women in the nuclear field?
Be a dreamer. Everything else can be learned, but you need to bring the ability to see the world the way you want it to be in order to create the technologies that will change the world. Be curious. Never be afraid to fail, because you will have ideas, experiments, and projects fail, but, like the phoenix, you will rise from the ashes and build bigger and better from the experience. Be passionate and patient. Novel technologies that change the world can take time and resilience, so believe in yourself when it looks like no one else does.
What are some unique challenges you’ve faced?
The story of how I got here was neither traditional, nor easy. At 36, I to college as a non-traditional student. I enrolled in the chemistry program at Idaho State University (ISU), with hopes of beginning a new career I felt I would love. However, after finding myself in a room full of 18- to 20-year-olds, I began to question my decision to return to college so late in life. At the end of that first day, I sat alone, sobbing, waiting for the bus home. But then a little voice inside said, “Come back tomorrow.” I did go back, and I found the courage to move forward. By the end of that first week, I could not imagine being anywhere else but in the ISU chemistry program. I credit that courage for helping me throughout my career and life.
What is your favorite work memory or accomplishment?
To date, my biggest career accomplishment is Colorimetric Detection of Actinides (CoDeAc) because it will save lives. When a radiological event occurs, CoDeAc will assess the level of personal radiological contamination in seconds to expedite medical treatment. This first-of-its-kind chemical agent was five years in the making and the culmination of that research, a new technology company Codeac Solutions, Inc., is a dream come true. I am very excited to see CoDeAc out in the marketplace, and I am looking forward to continuing research on CoDeAc with the collaboration between INL and Codeac Solutions to create more novel technologies to aid nuclear professionals, military, and first responders.