Othalene Lawrence is EERE's lead program manager for diversity and inclusion, outreach, STEM, and veteran’s initiatives. As the first African-American female environmental scientist hired at DOE, she developed EERE’s first National Environmental Policy Act, environmental justice program, and diversity and inclusion operational strategic implementation plans. Othalene graduated from Howard University as a pre-med student with a B.S. in zoology and a chemistry minor; her masters in environmental science policy from George Washington University.
1.) What inspired you to work in STEM?
I have always been interested in nature and finding answers to why and how things work. As a child, my favorite pass time was to capture “tickle bees” early in the morning, raising numerous animals (dogs, hermit crabs, fish, Guinee pigs, and hamsters), and playing the game operation. My preference was to climb trees, ride horses and camp over playing with dolls.
My experience in STEM includes managing environmental, safety, and health-related programs on a local, national and global level. One of several accomplishments include developing and managing a ‘model’ asbestos program for the Department of the Navy.
2.) What excites you about your work at the Department of Energy?
Providing opportunities to our future leaders, innovation and bringing people together to create solutions to unsolved or challenging problems.
3.) 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 so that girls and underrepresented groups can see themselves as achievers and game changers.
4.) 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 of interest, volunteer at organizations promoting STEM, network, and take courses that help strengthen your competitive edge. It is also very important to bring others along as you go. Share your knowledge, experiences and triumphs to encourage and empower.
5.) 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 (ROI) by far supersedes the sacrifice. In addition, I love traveling, exploring different regions and cultures. Exposure is the best educator and helps to reduce and limit prejudice and bias.