Linda Silverman is the director of the DOE's Solar Decathlon, a university competition that challenges collegiate teams to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-saving, energy-efficient and attractive. In addition to providing a unique, intensive workforce development experience for the students involved in the teams, the Solar Decathlon offers free tours to the public and training opportunities for consumers, building professionals and teachers.
1) What inspired you to work in STEM?
I always liked numbers and analyzing things. I applied this to finance and investing in college. My first job after college was in commodities trading in New York City. I loved the numbers part of the job, but I was looking for something more analytical and with broader impact. So, I went to a graduate school where my focus was more on economics applied to international issues. I was able to apply my education and early work experiences to all of my jobs at DOE, whether it was developing policy for the international climate change negotiations under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, serving as a senior advisor working on renewable energy market issues, and workforce and education, working with local communities on climate change resilience and mitigation, or in my current job overseeing a university competition that involves amazing, innovative students who will inspire kids and the public to embrace clean energy transformation.
2) What excites you about your work at the Department of Energy?
I love the content of my job – working on clean energy issues that are really key to transforming our economy and environment. I work with incredibly brilliant, engaging and inspiring people, whether at DOE or other U.S. government agencies, the national labs, local communities, private sector, universities, nonprofit, etc. People working in the clean energy space are so interesting and committed to making a difference – there is always excitement and enthusiasm in my everyday interactions. Our work is very relevant to the most important national and international issue – climate change. Working on the Solar Decathlon really brings together my background and previous jobs at DOE – climate change policy, workforce development; local community engagement and energy analysis.
3) How can our country engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM?
We need to ensure that we are always demonstrating the relevancy of STEM to our most critical challenges and that new blood is necessary for innovation. Girls and underrepresented groups need to see that their experience is crucial to contributing to solutions to these challenges. Not everyone in STEM has an engineering or science degree – folks can have other backgrounds. However, we need to encourage everyone to be comfortable with numbers and show that math is not evil. In what I work on, feeling comfortable with economic and budget issues enables participation in a wide range of national issues.
4) Do you have tips you'd recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?
Look out for and follow articles and weblinks in areas of interest. Attend events in related areas wherever you live. Approach presenters / organizers of these events and see if there are ways to get involved. For students, stay in school and take courses that stretch you. Follow every opportunity. Don’t be shy about approaching people and talking to them about their experiences and if they know of opportunities. For those looking for internships, look at websites for U.S. government agencies, national laboratories and key employers in your area. Keep checking as opportunities open on an ongoing basis.
5) When you have free time, what are your hobbies?
I love hanging out with my husband and two kids. I love to travel. My most favorite thing is to take my dog on long walks. I also cherish my girlfriends and make time to hang out with them, too.