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People Spotlight | Educational Programs and Outreach

Staff Spotlight - Hyekyung (Clarisse) Kim

Hyekyung (Clarisse) Kim
Energy Systems and Infrastructure Analysis (ESIA)

Education: BS in physics (Columbia University, NY); PhD in physics (University of Chicago, IL).
Hobbies: Clarisse is in love with playing the violin and piano and enjoys cooking healthy and satisfying cruelty-free meals.

Hyekyung (Clarisse) Kim is a scientist and program manager at Argonne. As the co-manager of technical programs for the U.S. government-led Net Zero World Initiative, Clarisse manages international programs where Argonne exchanges scientific knowledge and technical cooperation with other countries for mutual benefit. Clarisse also conducts research and analysis to help support energy transitions away from fossil fuels as part of the Energy Systems Division.

Clarisse finds her work here at Argonne fun and challenging. She says that It is wonderful to feel like I can contribute to my team, my lab, my country, and my planet.”

It was an article in the New York Times on the search for a particle responsible for mass that first made her interested in becoming a scientist. Clarisse describes the feeling, like being struck by lightning.” She goes on to say, I couldn’t believe I had never questioned my own thinking and reference frame enough to recognize that there must be a cause for something like mass that we all take for granted. I knew at that moment that I had to pursue physics.”

Clarisse was always very curious as a child, and a self-described rascal” who liked to take things apart and put them back together again.

I loved to explore the outdoors and got lots of cuts and scrapes playing outside,” she said. At home, I liked to experiment with electronics, taking apart appliances and electric sockets (which was actually quite fun!).” Clarisse went on to say, Later, I was rebellious and questioning everyone and everything, including and especially myself. I got in trouble all the time in school because I was bored in class and used to hide in the music room composing music and writing opinion pieces for newspapers.”

Clarisse earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Columbia University in New York, NY, and a PhD in physics from the University of Chicago (IL). These degrees led her to her current role as a staff scientist at Argonne, a U.S. Department of Energy laboratory.

In her roles with the Energy Systems Division and the Net-zero World Initiative, Clarisse is committed to helping the U.S. and other countries make choices that are good for both people and the environment. She works on reducing the negative effects of how we live on Earth by cutting down on harmful emissions and minimizing unsustainable activities. She also focuses on making our world safer by building stronger friendships with other countries and supporting greener solutions for the future.

Clarisse believes that every occupation is important to a well-functioning society and does not believe her work is any more important than that of teachers, nurses, cooks, artists, or farmers because, we all make life possible for each other”.

What is interesting about my work is that we are trying to support the U.S. and other countries in taking steps that are beneficial for them and the planet, such as reducing harmful emissions and mining of critical minerals, trying to reduce harmful impacts of the way humans live on earth, increasing security by strengthening our relationships with others in the world, and investing in more sustainable solutions. We should all care about everything and everyone – not just our own kind or even just our own species – because we are all interconnected, and because we become better, kinder people when we care. If we decide to only care about things that benefit us, we become more closed off, lonely, bitter, angry, and miserable.”

As a researcher who hopes to inspire the next generation of STEM professionals, Clarisse encourages students thinking of pursuing a career in STEM to talk to people in the field to understand what is involved in the career and the pathways they are interested in.

Don’t be afraid of failure because in reality, there is no such thing,” she said. There are times when things don’t work out the way you had hoped, but the effort you put in is what helps you become better the next time. If you can learn to persevere while being gentle and flexible and have a sense of humor, everything you do – whether the outcome turns out the way you wanted – will make you so much stronger.”