Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) is celebrating National Engineers Week (Feb. 19-Feb. 25) and Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day (Feb. 23) by highlighting just a few of the more than 2,500 employees that make up the Lab’s Engineering Directorate.
Representing a cross-section of the broad scope of focus areas and disciplines comprising the directorate, Engineering employees discussed their backgrounds, what brought them to the Lab, what they do, why they enjoy their work and what advice they might have for young people thinking of pursuing a career in engineering. Here are their stories:
Machine Learning Group
Computational Engineering Division
Priyadip Ray came to LLNL out of a desire to do impactful work. Growing up in India, Ray was inspired by his father, a physicist, to pursue science and discovered the potential that engineering had to change lives. After finishing his undergraduate and graduate work in India, Ray obtained his Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from Syracuse University and completed a stint as a postdoc at Duke University before joining the Lab.
At LLNL, Ray applies machine learning and AI to clinical data and electronic health records to create predictive models of diseases including ALS, sepsis and COVID-19. Through these improved models, clinicians could potentially uncover novel therapeutics or detect signatures and diagnose diseases much earlier than they are currently able to, providing more lead time to develop countermeasures and prepare for future pandemics.
Ray enjoys engineering because it allows him to work on "Big Science" and multidisciplinary projects and said he has "never found a better set of colleagues anywhere else." He encourages young engineers to seek out a specialized niche and get involved in research projects through internships, at companies or at universities to find the best fit.
"Every research group needs diverse people, because everybody brings some unique strengths, and that contributes a lot. My advice would be to reach out and get involved in projects, even if they’re not directly in your area, but that give you that bigger picture view that will really help you succeed."
Manufacturing supervisor and Central Planning Office lead
Manufacturing Engineering Section
Like many research and development institutions, manufacturing plays a major role in engineering at LLNL. Blanca Crivello, a supervisor and project coordinator in the Engineering Directorate, works with engineers, technicians, machinists and others to help engineers bring their vision to reality. As a project manager at LLNL, Crivello enjoys being able to help guide projects from the drawing board to fruition and interacting with all facets of the Lab.
Crivello began her career in a sheet metal/machine shop, where she gained experience in customer service and eventually became a buyer, with LLNL as a client. She applied to the Lab as an administrative assistant, and furthered her education and grew her career with support from the Lab. She returned to school for an associate degree in business and honed her skills in project management.
Crivello is passionate about exposing more women to engineering and manufacturing through her volunteer work with the LLNL SAGE Professional Growth Camp, Women in Manufacturing group, the San Joaquin Valley Expanding Your Horizons conference, Dinner with a STEM Professional and serving on the advisory board for the Engineering Technology Program at San Joaquin Delta College. Crivello encourages young girls to pursue their interests, including drawing or other kinds of hands-on work, and to seek out apprenticeship programs in one of the many fields within engineering, such as welding, machining and sheet metal.
"There are so many different areas that (women) can really help in engineering. I have seen a slogan that said, ’Women make manufacturing move,’ and that makes me excited. There are pieces that we can really contribute. I want to be that role model to young girls that you can do and apply yourself and we can make things happen."
Control Systems engineer
Laser Systems Engineering and Operations Division
Originally from Puerto Rico, Jessica Jimenez enjoyed math and science in school and was influenced by an older sister who became an electrical engineer. Drawn to electrical system design, Jimenez earned her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at the University of Puerto Rico and came to the Bay Area and the University of California at Berkeley to work on her masters’ degree, researching signal processing.
Post-college, Jimenez decided she wanted to take a more practical direction and got a job with a startup developing automated control solutions for synchrotron light facility and then a system integration company, turning her attention to industrial control systems. When she applied to LLNL, Jimenez was impressed with the size and scope of the control system for the National Ignition Facility (NIF), home of world’s most energetic laser. As a control systems engineer at NIF, Jimenez designs software and electrical circuits that control sensors and controllers that monitor the status of NIF’s safety systems. The systems ensure the laser is contained and will shut the system down if the sensors detect any unsafe conditions.
Jimenez’s favorite part of her job at LLNL is programming the systems, making sure the sensors and devices are communicating properly and creating the software that will control the devices based on data collected from the sensors.
"Believe in yourself. You can do it. Even if people tell you that you cannot do it, you can do it. And you’re able to solve very difficult problems. You can do hard things, and don’t let anybody tell you differently."
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