Othalene Lawrence is an Environmental Scientist and the Senior Diversity and STEM Program leader in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). Othalene leads as a subject matter expert on recruitment, outreach, employee engagement, workforce sustainability, and STEM. Othalene has a B.S. in Zoology/Chemistry from Howard University and a M.S. in Environmental Science Policy from George Washington University.
What inspired you to work in STEM?
I have always been interested in nature and finding answers to why and how things work. Being a kinesthetic and tactile learner, science satisfies my curiosity and need to learn and explore with my hands and senses. As a child, I was amazed at the functionality of tickle bees and lightening bugs. In high school, I enjoyed the biological sciences with such engaging activities as dissecting frogs and starfish. In college, I was totally consumed with the joy of endlessly working on synthesis reactions in Organic Chemistry. As a mother, scientific exploration, discovery and research activities were a major component on every family vacation with my children. Education and work experience only made the significance of STEM more exciting and inspiring.
What excites you about your work at the Energy Department?
Providing opportunities to our future leaders, innovation and bringing people together for the purpose of resolving problems. Energy is essential in sustaining life, and professions in STEM offer a tremendous opportunity to improve the quality of life on a local, national and global level. Technological advances are mobilizing every day to help provide a more sustainable planet for all to live in.
The most rewarding aspect of what I do is to bring the benefits and opportunities of what we do to underrepresented communities and promote equity and respect in carrying out EERE’s vision and mission. Highlights of my career include traveling to Belize to support environmental humanitarian efforts of the Mayan people with the Indian Law Research Center and National Geographic Society, representing DOE in Norway and Korea on ISO1400 initiatives, and working at the World Bank conducting stocktaking research on renewable energy technologies in the Caribbean and Central America.
How can our country engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM?
As STEM professionals, we have an obligation and responsibility to share our gifts, insight, and talents with others. We need to make our presence known and have our voices heard, individually and collectively. Unless we are seen and heard, we are not visible or attainable. We must have presence rather than merely exist.
Do you have tips you'd recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?
Talk to people in the field that you are interested in, seek out internships and job opportunities to get hands on experience, read about your career interests, volunteer at organizations promoting STEM, network, and take courses that help strengthen your competitive edge.
When you have free time, what are your hobbies?
Planting my feet on Mother Earth, submerging my hands in the soil, cooling off in her cool waters, and taking in all that surrounds me. I also get total pleasure out of volunteering. It is important to give back. When you give freely, the return on investment by far supersedes the sacrifice.
Learn more about our programs & resources for women and girls in STEM at http://www.energy.gov/women
ment by far supersedes the sacrifice.