Dr. Amanda J. Minnich is a Machine Learning Research Scientist and Molecular Data-Driven Modeling Team Lead at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). At LLNL, she is part of the multi-institution ATOM Consortium, where she applies Machine Learning techniques to biological data for drug discovery purposes. Dr. Minnich received a BA in Integrative Biology from UC Berkeley (2009) and an MS (2014) and PhD with Distinction (2017) in Computer Science from the University of New Mexico. While at UNM she was named an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, a PiBBs Fellow, a Grace Hopper Scholar, and the Outstanding Graduate Student for the CS Department in 2017. She has published her work at and served on Program Committees for top conferences including WWW, ASONAM, KDD, ICDM, SC, GTC, and ICWE, and has been issued a patent for her dissertation work. Dr. Minnich also has a passion for advocating for women in tech; she co-founded and served as President of UNM’s first chartered Women in Computing group, she frequently volunteers at women in tech events, and she acted as co-chair of the Artificial Intelligence track at Grace Hopper Celebration 2019.
What inspired you to work in STEM?
I have always had an interest in and curiosity about the way things work under the hood, so STEM is a natural fit. That doesn’t mean I knew what I wanted my career to look like though! I changed my major 7 times in college, and then ended up jumping from Biology to Computer Science for graduate school. I have pursued career opportunities as a veterinarian, psychologist, social worker, tropical field biologist, ecologist, computer scientist, and finally data scientist. Every step I took before, even if it seemed unrelated, helps to bring a unique perspective and set of skills to my current interdisciplinary career.
What excites you about your work at the Energy Department?
I get to tackle a really difficult and important societal issue: drug discovery, in a research-focused way. It is intellectually interesting but also really meaningful, and I have the best co-workers.
How can our country engage more women, girls and other underrepresented groups in STEM?
Mentorship! Getting out in the community and mentoring students, whether through Girls Who Code, Expanding Your Horizons, speaking at high schools and community colleges, whatever works for you. Also mentoring wherever you meet young women; you never know when one conversation can help to motivate someone to move into a career in STEM.
Do you have tips you'd recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?
Don’t worry if you come from an unconventional background. Find people who are doing work that looks interesting and go talk with them. People want to help others rise up, and if you locate those resources you can transition to whatever career you want.