Dr. Susannah Tringe is Deputy for User Programs at the Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, where she oversees calls for proposals to take advantage of the JGI's DNA sequencing, DNA synthesis and metabolomics capabilities. She also heads the Microbial Systems Group, where her major research interests relate to microbial influences on greenhouse gas uptake and release in wetlands and how microbes interact with plants to affect growth, health, and disease resistance.
Dr. Tringe received her undergraduate degree in Physics from Harvard University and went on to a Ph.D. in Biophysics from Stanford University. From there she spent a few years in a yeast genetics lab at the University of New Mexico before joining Dr. Edward Rubin's group at Berkeley Lab as a postdoc in 2003. There she developed techniques for using DNA sequence data for comparative analysis of whole microbial communities, rather than individual organisms, a field now known as metagenomics. In 2011 she was awarded an Early Career Research grant from the Department of Energy to study microbial communities in wetlands and the potential for wetland restoration to serve as an effective carbon sink. In the same year she was named one of Popular Science’s “Brilliant Ten,” a list of up-and-coming young scientists.
What inspired you to work in STEM?
I was interested in science and math from the beginning, and I had a great physics teacher in high school who inspired me to major in physics in college.
What excites you about your work at the Energy Department?
Our work at Berkeley lab is exciting to me because it is not only fascinating fundamental science, but has a focused mission to increase energy independence and protect our global climate. I also enjoy the team-science atmosphere, which allows us to work collaboratively to tackle big questions. I've always loved science and enjoy discovering and understanding new things.
How can our country engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM?
I think it's important to expose kids to science and scientists early, so they're comfortable thinking about science as something they can do. I also think labs and universities could do more to make scientific careers compatible with raising a family, which would benefit all young scientists and reduce attrition.
Do you have tips you'd recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?
Always be willing to try something new. Science changes fast, so it's good to pick up as many skills and as much knowledge as you can along the way.