Ashley Mitchell has served as the Production Chemistry Supervisor at Jefferson Lab since 2018, working within their Test Lab’s Production Chemistry Department. She joined the lab in 2015. She is a trained Human Performance Improvement specialist, as well as a liaison for the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee representing the Accelerator Division. Lastly, Ashley is an internal auditor for superconducting radiofrequency technology at Jefferson Lab (which you can learn more about here).
Ashley received a Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry, with a minor in Art from Radford University in 2006. During school, she was involved in the “Magic of Science” shows at elementary schools which encourages students to love science. She was also involved in events for women in STEM. She is currently working toward her Master’s in Engineering Management at Old Dominion University. Previously, Ashley was a study technician at Covance Laboratories in Vienna, VA.
What inspired you to work in STEM?
My mother was a teacher and always encouraged experiments and learning. Throughout my childhood I was always collecting bugs and doing experiments with plants in the kitchen. I adored science and wanted to make fireworks. I had amazing teachers in high school who made science interesting and fun, and my chemistry teacher inspired me to pursue a chemistry degree. A family friend encouraged me to work in the pharmaceutical industry but after working in the field I decided it was not for me. I really wanted to be back in a lab.
What excites you about your work at the Energy Department?
I enjoy helping people. I love science and learning. Working at Jefferson Lab allows me to help scientists accomplish their experiments with the work we do in the Chemistry Department. My work preparing for scientific tests, by doing work that gets a cavity or parts to a particle-free status is the best way I can help us achieve good science and discovery. When I hear that a scientist performed a test that went really well, it makes me happy because I know I had a small part in ensuring the test was successful. Our scientists are working on some really cool things - from cancer treatments to water treatment to understanding the nature of the universe - and it is really neat to be a part of it all.
How can our country engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM?
We have to start when they are young, by empowering women to believe in themselves and encourage them to explore traditionally “male” hobbies and interests. Women are smart and creative and strong and we need to get that message out to our youth so they have the courage and confidence to pursue STEM careers and passions. Visibility is important so females can see others like them in STEM and have role models to look up to. The Women @ Energy series is a great start to give women and girls a place to go to for inspiration.
Do you have tips you'd recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?
Yes, I have a few pieces of advice for those out there looking to explore the field:
- Life takes you on a journey; I would encourage someone to follow their passion and allow the journey to happen.
- Listen and be inspired by others, but follow your own path. This will lead to a career you care for and are passionate about.
- Always try to keep learning and grow.
- Say yes to things that scare you! They may open doors to opportunities you never even knew were out there.
When you have free time, what are your hobbies?
There are several things that I really enjoy doing. A few of them are:
- Fostering and adopting “broken” dogs – My husband Jeff and I have four dogs: two are blind and one is deaf. They are all senior dogs. We like to joke that we have a doggy retirement home now.
- Camping and hiking – Jeff and I started camping more during the pandemic and have fallen in love with being outside and enjoying nature.
- Cooking – Cooking is chemistry! You can mix different ingredients and get different results. Some recipes need to be very precise to get right but with others you can have fun experimenting with flavors and textures. I find cooking very relaxing. Not to mention that it is so satisfying when I create something that comes out really well!
- Gardening – The ability to grow fruits, vegetables and flowers is rewarding. I am really fond of being able to step outside and grab some tomatoes or some herbs to throw in the frying pan when I’m cooking for some added flavor.
- Arts, crafts and painting – I have been inspired by watercolors and acrylics lately. It is a nice relaxing activity that teaches me to embrace mistakes and how to think ahead to plan my work.