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Women @ Energy: Deanna Willis

February 24, 2014 - 4:32pm


Deanna Willis is a communications specialist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Deanna Willis is a communications specialist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

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Deanna Willis is a communications specialist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). She writes, edits, and manages the content and production of high-level publications, presentations, posters, websites, and other communication products. Deanna interned at LLNL 13 years ago while pursuing her master’s degree. She now works with a team of managers, scientists, editors, and designers to highlight the innovative, world-class work of the Computation organization at LLNL.

Deanna earned a master’s degree in English from San Jose State University, and she graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in English from University of the Pacific.

1) What inspired you to work in STEM?

I’m a bibliophile through and through, and my heart belongs to literature. However, my dad worked at LLNL, and I grew up hearing about the work and mission of the National Labs. He brought me to Take Your Daughter to Work Day when I was in high school, and I was impressed with the significant contributions the Lab makes to the nation. Dad encouraged me to intern here when I was in my master’s program. Now, I’m a proud second-generation LLNL employee.

2) What excites you about your work at the Energy Department?

I consider myself a student of the world. I simply love to learn. The national laboratories are great for people like me because the work is challenging, stimulating, and constantly evolving.

Computing has been a fundamental part of LLNL since its founding 60 years ago, and the Lab has a stellar reputation for shaping the frontiers of high performance computing and computer science. Having the opportunity to collaborate with and lend my skills to a brilliant team of scientists is really a privilege. My job is to help tell their story, and that’s a lot of fun.

3) How can our country engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM?

Children are inherently inquisitive. Read to them. Explore with them. Make science relatable and exciting with hands-on projects and outings. I don’t know the answers to half the things my kids ask me, so we research and learn together.

If nothing else, spread the word that STEM jobs tend to be high paying, and the demand for qualified STEM professionals is growing three times faster than other job markets.

4) Do you have tips you'd recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?

I have a great career, although it’s not one you’d typically think of when you consider a profession in STEM. Think broadly about potential work in science and math. Also, don’t underestimate the value of taking writing and humanities classes. These classes teach you to think critically, analyze problems, and effectively and precisely communicate your thoughts—skills that will be valuable in any field.   

5) When you have free time, what are your hobbies?

My husband coaches high school baseball; my 5-year-old son plays baseball and soccer; and my 2-year-old son thinks he’s a football player—so sports take up a good amount of my time. I like to balance that with a lot of reading and spending time with my friends, drinking local wine and laughing. It’s a sweet life.