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People Spotlight | Argonne National Laboratory

Meet Jessica Durham Macholz, materials scientist

Navigating a career in science through mentorship and delegation

Macholz shares her experience of having a family while pursuing a successful scientific career and the importance of having supportive mentors and delegating tasks effectively.

In 2017, Jessica Durham Macholz joined the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory as a postdoctoral researcher and four years later decided to start a family. Then she wondered how such a personal decision to have a baby would affect her career.

Now a Principal Materials Scientist in the Applied Materials Division, Macholz realized the lab’s dedication to protocols ensured a safe work environment for her and her developing baby. Then, while the Argonne media team took photos of new equipment in the lab, they happened to include Macholz, who was near the end of her pregnancy.

I’ve used these photos in recent presentations at scientific conferences and have received enthusiastic feedback,” said Macholz. ​“I think it is important to show aspiring female scientists that it is possible to have a family and a scientific career.”

Macholz has been the beneficiary of a passionate mentor who is helping to develop the next generation of women leaders. Macholz recalled how she met Lisa Szczepura, a chemistry professor at Illinois State University in 2006. Macholz found it motivating to be a member of a research group led by a female scientist who focused on mentoring underrepresented students in STEM. Szczepura also encouraged Macholz to pursue a doctorate in chemistry, a unique achievement in her family.

Without the time and effort that Dr. Szczepura invested in developing my scientific curiosity, I would have had vastly different career aspirations and likely not be in the position I am today,” Macholz said.

Since then, Macholz realizes that you can’t do everything yourself and must learn to delegate effectively by establishing a team of trustworthy people with unique skillsets who will complete tasks.

Empowering a team of people to execute on group needs will allow you to be the best leader you can be and give them valuable skills for their future careers,” said Macholz. ​“As an early career scientist, time management and task delegation involve constant learning and improvement as you figure out what works and what doesn’t.”

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology by conducting leading-edge basic and applied research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://​ener​gy​.gov/​s​c​ience.