Laura Biedermann, Ph.D. awarded Spark Award
For a career-long commitment to peer mentoring; for being a prolific proponent of mentoring the next generation of women in STEM; and for ongoing research that impacts the community.
Laura Biedermann, Ph.D., has an exceptional track record as a dedicated technical and career mentor at Sandia National Laboratories. Her 14 technical and career mentees include professional engineers, Ph.D. candidates, and a post-baccalaureate researcher. In addition to conventional one-on-one mentorship, Dr. Biedermann is a founding member of two novel mentoring programs, the Principal Investigator (PI) Workshop Series and the Peer Mentoring Steering Committee. These mentoring programs have been particularly successful at advancing women's careers.
Dr. Biedermann is a physicist in the electronic, optical, and nano materials department at Sandia National Laboratories. Her current research includes evaluating electrical conduction mechanisms in novel materials, investigating X-ray/material interactions, and conducting material aging and reliability studies. While an esteemed scientist, she's also an acclaimed mentor and an advocate for increasing opportunities for women in STEM, which she has demonstrated through ongoing mentoring, coaching, and leadership development.
In 2013, Dr. Biedermann and three fellow early-career female staff members formed the PI Workshop team, driven by their shared vision to learn the skills necessary to be a successful PI. The PI Workshop team developed a daylong workshop featuring panel discussions, presentations, and networking opportunities. This workshop featured some of Sandia's most talented research leaders sharing their successes and failures leading projects. The percentage of women attendees was greater than the percentage of women on Sandia's staff at the time. This effort increased opportunities for women to network with other PI role models or consider pursuing a PI role as a career path. The PI Workshop gained institutional support and is now an ongoing series with more than 1,000 attendees at the 24 original workshops hosted to date.
Dr. Biedermann has been a prolific leader of peer mentoring at Sandia since co-founding an all-women peer mentoring group in 2012. Peer mentoring is an intentional, lateral mentorship that requires those who become mentors to hold one another accountable. Peer mentors share the responsibilities for setting goals, strengthening career skills, and building networks. Peer mentoring has helped Dr. Biedermann and colleagues prepare for the varied challenges many encounter in STEM fields.
In 2016, Dr. Biedermann and colleagues created the Peer Mentoring Steering Committee to increase cross-organizational relationships and staff retention by providing support for new peer groups. Women currently account for 64% of peer group members.
Dr. Biedermann volunteers as a high school mentor through the Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentor 2.0 program, advising a high school student on college, career, and life skills. Through STEM outreach events such as Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, Sandia's "Dognapping Workshop" for fourth-graders, serving as a science fair judge, and a career speaker for middle school girls, she has inspired hundreds of schoolchildren over the past 20 years.
She is a SWE member and has volunteered at WE Local collegiate competitions, judging posters and lightning talks. A Louisiana native, she is an avid cross-country skier, cyclist, runner, and violinist. She and her husband participate in the annual Bike Multiple Sclerosis fundraiser for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Dr. Biedermann holds a B.S. in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Ph.D. in physics from Purdue University.