Women @ Energy: Amanda Randles

March 31, 2014

Amanda Randles is a Lawrence Fellow at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).  She completed her PhD in Applied Physics at Harvard University with a secondary field in Computational Science. Her advisors were Efthimios Kaxiras and Hanspeter Pfister. She received her Bachelor's Degree in both Computer Science and Physics from Duke University, and her Master's Degree in Computer Science from Harvard University.  Before graduate school, she worked for three years as a software developer at IBM on the Blue Gene Development Team. In general, her work focuses on the design of large-scale parallel applications targeting problems in physics.  Her research goals are to both investigate fundamental questions related to fluid dynamics as well as extend the multiscale models developed in her thesis to study cancer metastasis. For this collaborative work, she continues as a Visiting Scientist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute working in Franziska Michor’s lab. To find about more about her research, visit: http://amandarandles.com

1)    What inspired you to work in STEM?

I attended the Utica Center for Math, Science, and Technology in high school and was exposed to programming at an early stage. I was fortunate to have really great teachers like Konrad Dzwonkiewicz who was one of the first to teach me about the use of computer programming in the sciences.  At Duke University, I was able to pursue a multidisciplinary program majoring in both Computer Science and Physics.  While there, I was able to spend time both in Joseph Nevins’ lab in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology and working with Bob Guenther on biomedical optics research.  They were both incredibly supportive mentors who helped solidify my enthusiasm for research in the STEM fields.

2)    What excites you about your work at the Energy Department?

I feel extremely lucky to get to work with some of the top computational scientists in the country using technology on a scale that isn’t possible elsewhere. I’m currently working on a massively parallel hemodynamics code to study the underlying mechanisms of cancer metastasis. This type of model requires large-scale supercomputers like those at LLNL. We are working to validate the models through in vitro experiments in 3D printed arterial geometries. It has been exciting working in an environment where I can collaborate with high performance computing experts and additive manufacturing experts from the same facility. 

3)    How can our country engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM?

When I was in junior high and high school, I had the chance to be a part of many science-based extracurricular activities like Science Olympiad and FIRST Robotics. I think it’s important to support such programs and extend their reach. Programs like FIRST are a great way for students to work together to see a more fun and interactive side of science. I think it’s also important that younger girls not only have role models in the field but also get an understanding about what it means to pursue STEM. I worked at IBM for a few years after undergrad and we used to host events for girls in junior high school to visit the site. I think having a tangible view of the types of projects and the wide array of projects that are being worked on can help the students get excited.

4)    Do you have tips you'd recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?

Pursue internships and be open to using them to try different topics. Talk to a lot of people. I’ve found most people I approach for advice are extremely receptive and want to help.  You just need to feel comfortable approaching them. If you are in graduate school, be sure to attend conferences to meet other people in the field outside your school and while you’re there, attend the social events as well as the talks. Most of my most meaningful professional relationships have started from conversations outside of the seminars.

5)    When you have free time, what are your hobbies?

I enjoy travelling and am starting to get more involved with photography. I read a lot, listen to podcasts on my commute, and like cooking.


This article originally appeared on energy.gov.