Mark BasnightBy Donna Jones Pelkie • July 5, 2016
Mark Basnight is an emergency management systems analyst in the Emergency Disaster Analysis (EDA) group, which is part of Argonne's Risk and Infrastructure Science Center. EDA staff researches, develops and applies state-of-the-art methodologies and technologies to help emergency managers prepare for natural, human-caused and technological disasters.
What attracted you to work at Argonne?
I love having the liberty to dream. I think Argonne is the perfect place for that. For me it's all about the next big idea, and Argonne is always trying to set the bar higher. What we're working on today is about the world decades from now.
I want to bridge the gap between science research and public affairs to learn how to be the most effective in our communication and to understand the psychology behind decision making. I think this is somewhere Argonne can stake its flag and say "no one does it like this."
I believe if we combine research, science and practice, maybe we can avoid another Ferguson or Baltimore. I really believe this can save lives. I have a passion about communications saving lives.
What do you like most about your job?
People think public affairs only involves media relations, but it also includes event planning, crisis communications and internal communications. It's one of the most exciting areas, and it can have a global impact on everything from who people vote for, to what they buy or how they survive during a natural disaster.
How people communicate to those affected by an emergency or disaster is an area wide open for exploration, and I can't think of a better place for scientific research into communications than here at Argonne.
How does Argonne support a positive work/life balance for you?
It's extremely flexible. I try to work from home twice a week. This equals increased productivity. The advent of technology has made it easier. I really, really like that.
What types of mentoring experiences — formal or informal — have you had at Argonne?
There are a couple of colleagues who've been instrumental in my growth and helping me to understand how things work here. It's been really important to have mentors to help me navigate the twists and turns. My coworkers also have been fantastic in getting me acclimated to the area. I moved here from North Carolina with my wife and children, and we knew no one in the Chicago area. Our family is all far away.
What activities and amenities do you appreciate at Argonne?
The amenities and benefits here, such as the health and wellness center, fitness center and clubs like Toastmasters, are fantastic. I also appreciate both the formal and informal opportunities the lab offers to learn such as brown bag seminars, symposia or the chance to attend conferences.
What challenges have you faced in your career to get you where you are today?
I was a career firefighter in Charlotte, NC when I had a serious car accident and was placed on desk duty working as a public information officer. Thanks to this, I realized I had a passion for public affairs work and spent the next 10 years as the fire department's public information officer. Three years ago, I had decided to retire from the department and thought I would write a book. Within a week, Argonne called.