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DMR Director Discusses Life as a Materials Researcher

Life in Science — Joys, Frustrations and Strategies
By Judy Meiksin

Linda S. Sapochak, Division Director for the Division of Materials Research at the National Science Foundation (NSF), presented a very motivating talk where she focused on the joys, frustrations, and inspirations in her life as a materials researcher. She talked about her mentors in academia as well as gaps in employment. Referring to her brief sales job at a department store, Sapochak emphasized that all job experiences are important as they provide a diversity of skills. For strategies on personal growth, Sapochak said to obtain good listening skills and give credit and acknowledgement to others. She said that NSF is a great place for women to work, and in citing the women who have mentored her at NSF, Sapochak acknowledged them for giving her constructive criticism that helped her improve professionally. She also cited the report by the National Academies Press, Beyond Bias and Barriers, which spells out the need for academia, government agencies, and other institutions to overcome gender bias in order to strengthen contributions to science and technology.

Sapochak then turned to another important issue that she wanted to open up for discussion. Identifying various reports of sexual harassment that are making the news in the public press as well as in scientific news outlets, Sapochak felt obligated to address this topic in an open forum. Beyond focusing on this issue in scientific institutions, Sapochak asked the audience what can be done to address sexual harassment in society. The Breakfast concluded with a valuable discussion.

This event, which occured at the MRS meeting on November 30, 2017, was dedicated to the memory of Millie Dresselhaus. It was sponsored in part by MilliporeSigma, Denton Vacuum LLC.