Clarina R. dela Cruz is lead instrument scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. She attended the University of the Philippines, Diliman, earning a bachelor's degree in physics; and the University of Houston, earning a master's and Ph.D in physics.
Clarina R. dela Cruz does neutron scattering studies on condensed matter systems. She uses neutrons to study the structure of complex magnetic and ferroelectric materials called multiferroics. They present possibilities for spintronic applications, multistate memory media, and optical filters.
1) What inspired you to work in STEM?
I was a 13-year-old sophomore at Philippine Science High School when I knew I wanted to pursue a career in physics. I always had an interest in the sciences as a child. As I started studying physics formally and interacting with members of the physics department at the university, I realized how much I enjoy learning and understanding that a seemingly abstract science to most is really about us – our world.
2) What excites you about your work at the Department of Energy?
Being an integral part of an organization that has an important mission in moving science forward and having an eventual impact in our everyday lives. I get to work with bright and energetic people who are excited to solve unique problems. As I work with students, it’s great to know that I am part of their education, and we are helping to increase the network working on scientific research.
3) How can our country engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM?
The U.S. is a great melting pot of cultures, and we are entering an era when the rapid growth of information technology is making it much easier to empower a thought, a value, or a group of people. This is a perfect foundation to successfully engage and promote STEM amongst women and underrepresented groups. The key is to convey the idea that STEM is part in our everyday life and success in a STEM-based career is achievable for everyone, including them. This exposure has to happen at an age when kids start valuing everyday things and begin to consider the skills necessary to have a future career. We should begin STEM engagement no later than middle school, even earlier if possible. Efforts made through the public school system have the most potential to reach girls and underrepresented groups. These students may never consider such careers if the connection to daily life, as well as a progressive future, is not properly presented to them. They have to see that women and underrepresented groups are successful in STEM. We have to bring this reality into their world while their minds are young and curious.
4) Do you have tips you'd recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?
Your ability to learn, analytical skills, and cognitive and conceptual skills will evolve. It will occur on a very high level as you work and surround yourself with people who can help you get better. Thus, as STEM careers often present learning challenges that can easily overwhelm us, do not be discouraged by what you can currently do. Do the work and make decisions to put yourself in a place where you can improve your knowledge.
5) When you have free time, what are your hobbies?
I practice Brazilian jiu jitsu and mixed martial arts for fitness. I play the guitar and sing, too. I usually perform at my church, as well as regularly visit nursing homes in the area. My new hobby is making edible decorations for cakes.