Chris LaFleur is a an internationally recognized expert in fire risk. Chris is responsible for fire risk program activities at Sandia National Laboratories, where she leads a team of experts who evaluate fire risks associated with hydrogen, nuclear, and other emerging technologies. These evaluations, performed by Chris and her team, provide a risk-informed basis for the safe and widespread use of hydrogen and nuclear technologies at scale.
In 2017, Chris was one of 10 recipients recognized at the sixth annual Clean Energy Education & Empowerment Women in Clean Energy Symposium in partnership with the MIT Energy Initiative and Stanford University’s Precourt Institute for Energy.
Chris has a Bachelor of Science in geology and mechanical engineering from the University of Rochester, a Master of Science degree in fire protection engineering from the University of Maryland, and a Doctorate of engineering in manufacturing engineering from the University of Michigan. She is a licensed professional engineer and serves as the chair of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 2, Hydrogen Technologies Code and as a principal member of the sprinkler discharge criteria committee of NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems. She also serves on the Hydrogen Safety Panel under the AIChE’s Center for Hydrogen Safety.
What inspired you to work in STEM?
I have always wanted to be an engineer because I love solving problems and I wanted to work on problems that are important, like enabling energy solutions.
What excites you about your work at the Energy Department?
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are really exciting to me because they eliminate the pollutants from combustion-based transportation modes.
I lead a team of engineers who conduct fire risk analyses for emerging technologies. This work allows us to examine new technologies like hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, airplane and trains to identify risks and hazards so they can be engineered as safe as possible. This enables these new technologies to be developed and reduce carbon emissions as well as reduce our reliance on fossil energy.
How can our country engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM?
Make women visible doing this work. If younger kids don’t know this work exists and that women are succeeding do it, they won’t do it.
Do you have tips you'd recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?
Find your niche. Mine is fire protection engineering. Be an expert in it, then branch out to get some breadth of knowledge. That makes you more successful no matter what topic you study.
When you have free time, what are your hobbies?
I am a woodworker, I make furniture, turn bowls and pens and have recently started hand carving wooden spoons. I also have a new puppy I am training.
Learn more about our programs & resources for women and girls in STEM at /women