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Women @ Energy: Elizabeth Cantwell

February 20, 2014 - 9:40am

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Elizabeth R. Cantwell (Betsy) is Director for Economic Development (Acting) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Dr. Cantwell spearheads the Laboratory’s progressive strategy to accelerate innovation and enhance national economic competitiveness.

Elizabeth R. Cantwell (Betsy) is Director for Economic Development (Acting) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Dr. Cantwell spearheads the Laboratory’s progressive strategy to accelerate innovation and enhance national economic competitiveness.

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Elizabeth R. Cantwell (Betsy) is Director for Economic Development (Acting) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Dr. Cantwell spearheads the Laboratory’s progressive strategy to accelerate innovation and enhance national economic competitiveness.  She returned to LLNL in 10/2010 after serving as Deputy Associate Director for Global Security at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  In her role at ORNL, she provided strategic leadership to develop business with the United States Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration, the United States Department of Defense, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the Center for Radiation Detection, and many others. 

Prior to joining ORNL, Dr. Cantwell served as the Director for the Threat Reduction Directorate Office of Strategy at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Dr. Cantwell spent a decade at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where she helped stand up the Homeland Security organization after 9/11.  She spent several years at NASA HQ as a Program Manager for the life and microgravity sciences.  Dr. Cantwell is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School (MBA); the University of California, Berkeley (PhD, Mechanical Engineering); and the University of Chicago (BA, Human Behavior). She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences as well as the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, and has served as Chair or Member of a number of National Academies studies pertaining to human space exploration.

1) What inspired you to work in STEM?

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I always wanted to be an astronaut.  By the time I figured out that wasn’t in my future, I was hooked on being a technologist.  Nothing has ever inspired me quite as much as developing new technologies and putting them out where they will solve big challenges for the country.

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

I started my career working for NASA, but moved over into the DOE National Labs because the national security mission seemed so very important to me.  I still feel that our science & technology form a critical basis for the security of our country.

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

For women and girls, ensure that competent, engaged women are teaching STEM at all levels – K-grad school.  Role models make all the difference. 

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

Engineering is always looking for interested girls!  I recommend that you find a way to stay engaged and good at math.  Math is key to every field of engineering.  This might mean going beyond merely attending your classes and doing your homework to finding on-line resources, getting tutoring or building a support group of people at school that all help each other with math. 

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

I sometimes get strange looks when I say this, but my children are my hobby, as long as they are living at home.  I have two teens, and I work with and for them every moment I get.  They are totally worth it, and they’ll be gone so soon!  When they are gone, my husband and I will get back to the mountaineering, fiction writing and community service activities that marked my pre-child days. When they are gone, my husband and I will get back to the mountaineering, fiction writing and community service activities that marked my pre-child days.

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