January 2023 Edition

Liz Schmidt, User Experiment Oversight, AES

A world-renowned physicist, a presidential candidate and a film director are all credited with coining phrases that say, in one way or another, just keep showing up and you’ll succeed, no matter what the obstacles.

Liz Schmidt, who conducts user experiment oversight for the user community at the Advanced Photon Source, a Department of Energy Office of Science user facility, took the phrase to heart early on in her career. It paid off.

“When I first started my career, I often felt invisible in a room or situation because I was young and often the only woman,” said Schmidt, who first worked in the manufacturing industry after earning a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Albion College. “I overcame that by continuously showing up and not listening to negative thoughts in my head.  I knew that I belonged in the room based upon my credentials, even if I felt otherwise sometimes.”

After steady encouragement to pursue a scientific career from professors at Albion, Schmidt initially found her work life a bit lonely and jarring. Conversations on the manufacturing floor were sometimes abrasive and she realized she needed a proverbially thicker skin. Over time, she began to stand up for herself, listened to advice from coworkers, grew more comfortable asking questions, and refused to be afraid to take the initiative on projects or tasks.

“I spoke up if I had an idea or knew a way that a task could be done in a safer or more efficient manner,” said Schmidt. “Because I do know; this is my area of expertise.”

Three years into her position with Argonne, Schmidt says she enjoys a balanced and collegial work environment. She meets with APS users, sees experiment set-ups, walks through how experiments will be conducted and helps explain how users may need to conform what they’re doing to meet Argonne’s safety standards and conduct their experiments in a safe way.

“I enjoy my interaction with users, and I try to promote a dialogue in order to get to a solution,” said Schmidt. “Some experiments are more complicated than others, but knowing that I help users conduct research that allows new scientific discoveries to be made that have an impact on so many different facets of our world really motivates me.”

Schmidt makes a point of showing up for herself, too. She unwinds by gardening, beachcombing for seashells on vacations, and taking spin classes.

“I block out time for myself,” she said. “If I don’t do that, I am just not as good of a colleague or a family member.”