Kerstin Kleese van Dam has led the charge at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to resolve data management, analysis, and knowledge discovery challenges in extreme-scale data environments. She also directs data analytics for PNNL’s Chemical Imaging Initiative and conducts her own research spanning other science domains. Her team’s work on near-real-time data characterization and feature detection for experimental measurement data reduced initial data analysis times from hours to seconds and weeks to hours, therefore helping scientist to optimize the results of their experiments as the measurement is progressing and speeding up time to insight. She is frequently asked to share her expertise on reviews and strategy workshops with the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation. She is also a member of the International Committee for Future Accelerators Study Group on Data Preservation for High Energy Physics and the international Exascale I/O working group and was part of the DOE BioKnowledgebase design effort. As a manager and scientist, Kerstin mentors postdoctoral fellows and students. A native of Germany and graduate of the Berlin Institute of Technology, she won the British Female Inventors and Innovators Silver Award before joining PNNL in 2009.
1) What inspires you to work in STEM?
School inspired me to work in information technology. The German Climate Computing Center (DKRZ) inspired me to focus my efforts on science, giving me the ability to work in areas where my contributions can help to make a real difference in people's lives.
2) What excites you about your work?
Working in with different science domains means that there is never a dull moment. My technical abilities and creativity are consistently challenged by their evolving requirements, pushing to create new solutions that take us to the next level.
3) How can our country engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM?
More inspiring science lessons in school that encourage discovery, discussion and contact with real life science, focusing on specific science domains. Many children no longer have a clear picture of what biology, chemistry or physics entail due to amorphous science classes. Later on, we continue to have a significant challenge in retaining outstanding young researchers once they start a family. More flexible working arrangements and child care support could be helpful here, as well as promotion of successful role models.
4) Do you have tips you would recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?
Follow your interests. It is important to find something you are passionate about rather than to follow the every latest fashionable topic.
5) When you have free time, what are your hobbies?
I relax reading crime novels and love to go hiking with my family during the summer months, enjoying the lovely warm and dry weather in our new U.S. home.