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NETL Mentor Profile: Djuna Gulliver

DjunaGulliverName:Djuna Gulliver

Position: Research scientist – Geomicrobiology

How long have you been at NETL? 12 years

How long have you been a mentor to research associates? Eight years

Did you participate in an NETL internship program? If so, which one(s)?

Yes. I participated in the former Minority Mentoring and Internship Program, which was established to increase the diversity of NETL but has since been replaced by other initiatives to achieve that same goal. 

How has this research associate’s research/experience contributed to U.S. Department of Energy/NETL team?

Preom came in with a good baseline knowledge of DNA sequencing techniques. With this baseline knowledge, she was able to quickly apply it to new applications relevant to NETL. This allowed her to focus her learning experience on how to use her skillset and interpret data, instead of just laboratory methods.

Preom also has a fresh mindset on energy; it allows the rest of the team to understand what the future generation may prioritize within the Department of Energy.

How do you think Preom’s experience at NETL will benefit her future?

On a basic level, Preom has learned many new techniques in high-throughput DNA sequencing. But on a deeper level, Preom was able to design her own experiment at NETL, which gave her an opportunity to develop and execute a project that follows the scientific method. This is something that is difficult to master, but Preom has done wonderfully.

What have been the most valuable parts of your mentorship?

Getting to conduct research and collaborate with Preom has been a delight. She is great at getting in the lab, learning what needs to be done and completing her research-related tasks quickly and effectively. But most importantly, she has a wonderful attitude that lifts the rest of the research group.

Please share some information about what ignited your early interest in science.

My father was an engineer, so there were many science activities that I did as a child. At a really young age, I went on science museum day trips to hunt for and learn about fossils.

When I was 11, I assisted my dad’s colleague in a hydropower turbine contest. We won third place in our division, although it was mostly due to the great engineering of the professional.

I was fortunate to have involved parents that encouraged me to take difficult math and science classes. Growing up and moving on to a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) was a natural progression.

From there, I went on to earn my doctorate in environmental engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. Prior to those studies, I earned a master’s degree in environmental engineering from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, geology and geophysics from the University of Minnesota. 

How can our country encourage more women to explore STEM-related careers?

One of the most important things to millennials is work-life balance. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is something I emphasize with my researchers and research associates.

After I had my first child, I realized that it’s extremely important for this nation to develop policies that make it acceptable to be both a devoted parent and a career person. Such policies could make our workplaces more efficient because so much time and effort are now wasted stressing about of the dual roles of parenting and working.

What excites you about your work at NETL?

I really am interested in discovering chemical reactions driven by microbiology. Working for NETL has allowed me to collect hard-to-obtain samples from fluids thousands of feet below the surface. As my fellow researchers and I characterize the microbiology of these samples, we get a glimpse into the complex ecology in a previously unknown environment. I still get excited when we finish our analyses and get that first look at life from our underground samples.

What are your hobbies?

I teach and perform for the Iron City Circus Arts. We do lyra, aerial silks, static trapeze, and straps.

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