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Women @ Energy: Debra Callahan

March 11, 2013 - 5:28pm

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Women @ Energy: Debra Callahan

Debbie Callahan is a group leader for Inertial Confinement Fusion Target Design at Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL).

Debbie Callahan is a group leader for Inertial Confinement Fusion Target Design at Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL).

Women @ Energy: Debra Callahan

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Debbie Callahan is a group leader for Inertial Confinement Fusion Target Design at Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL).  She came to LLNL as a graduate student and received her PhD from University of California, Davis in 1993.  Debbie has been part of the team working on the National Ignition Facility experiments since they began in 2009.  In 2012, she was a co-recipient of the John Dawson prize for Excellence in Plasma Physics for work done on the National Ignition Facility.  Her interests are inertial fusion and inertial fusion energy.

1) What inspired you to work in STEM?

In high school, I found myself interested in science and math classes --first biology, then chemistry, and finally physics.  I decided to major in physics in college because physics involved both science and applied math.  I also found physics to be challenging.

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

My work for DOE is designing experiments for the world's most energetic laser — the National Ignition Facility laser at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.  I am fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in our attempt to achieve fusion in the laboratory ("making a star on earth") using the world's premier laser facility.  I also get to work with a fantastic team of scientists and engineers who are all extremely talented and dedicated to this project.

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

I wish I knew how to engage more women and underrepresented minorities in science!  

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

I think my best advice would be to find mentors — both male and female.  I have had several very good mentors in my career who gave me opportunities to succeed and pushed me to do things that I didn't know that I could do.

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

I have a 16 year old daughter (who is interested in music and writing — not science) and I love to travel.  At age 16, my daughter has been to 5 of the 7 continents.  At her age, I had never left the US!  I also enjoy cooking and reading.

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