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Dr. Susan Seestrom of Sandia National Laboratories in 2019
Dr. Susan Seestrom of Sandia National Laboratories, pictured in 2019

During Women’s History Month, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) shared stories of barrier breakers and history makers – women who made history as “firsts.” This list of groundbreaking DOE women included the first female Secretary of Energy, the first woman to receive an Enrico Fermi Award from the agency, and the woman who discovered the criticality of the Y chromosome in mammals, just to name a few.

Dr. Susan Seestrom also holds a position on this list. She’s the first woman to head the Physics Division and the Weapons Physics Directorate at Los Alamos National Laboratory (a National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) laboratory in New Mexico born out of the Manhattan Project). She was also the first woman to chair DOE’s Nuclear Science Advisory Committee and the National Science Foundation. She is now the Associate Laboratories Director for Advanced Science and Technology and Chief Research Officer at Sandia National Laboratories.

More Reasons to be Impressed by Dr. Seestrom

  1. Despite her fear of heights, she’s hiked through the mountains of Peru to get to the remote Incan ruins of Choquequirao, trekked up the Amalfi Coast in Italy, and walked around the upper northern highlands of Ethiopia.

  2. She sponsors the education of five girls in Nepal.

  3. Her groundbreaking effort to develop a source of ultra-cold neutrons was used to measure the lifetime of the free neutron.

  4. She delivered wheelchairs to impoverished Nicaraguan children with disabilities.

  5. Growing up in Minnesota she loved to swim on summer nights in the Mississippi River.

  6. She’s a Fellow of the American Physical Society, a position she achieved in 1994.

  7. She started out as a geology major at the University of Minnesota and ended up obtaining a PhD in nuclear physics.

  8. One of her hobbies include quilting for family members and friends.

On Life & Leadership

“It’s clear there’s a sense of a glass ceiling in the workforce,” Dr. Seestrom said in 2001 when she was elevated to the Physics Division Director. “Many women whom I’ve never met have sent me notes. Without having done anything, my being here makes a difference to them – subtle cultural things sometimes get in the way of women succeeding,” she said. “I hope to set a model that you don’t have to just have a job – you can have a life.”

Through her work at Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories and in her personal time, it is clear Dr. Seestrom pursues an abundant life.

To learn more about women who were firsts at the Energy Department, watch our video narrated by NNSA Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, and read our blog that kicked off Women’s History Month.