The Biosciences Area is using science to solve energy, environmental, health, and biomanufacturing challenges. From early-career scientists to operations and support staff, it takes a diverse and dynamic team to make this type of science happen. Behind the Breakthroughs is a monthly profile series that showcases the people who support our mission.
Written by Ashleigh Papp
Edited by Greta Lorge
Cerise Bennett, Cell Culture Crafter
According to Bennett, needlecraft has been an excellent introduction to understanding and following lab protocols. Now a research associate in the Biological Systems and Engineering Division, Bennett continues to work and play in the overlapping space between science and art. “I’m constantly surprised by how much creativity is needed in the lab,” she said.
Dalicia Thomasson, Pivoting Planner
For Thomasson, a creative outlet helps her feel connected with the natural world while also restoring her calm disposition. In her position at Berkeley Lab, Thomasson supports the BSE Division Director and each day is filled with new challenges and surprises. Keeping a level head and an optimistic attitude are key to her success. “In our role, we just have to stay calm,” Thomasson said. “Things change and you have to adapt.”
Berkeley Kauffman, Helix Surfer
A longtime fishing and surfing enthusiast, Berkeley Kauffman pursued his love for marine science in school and later embarked on a path in biochemistry. Now, Kauffman works on the JGI’s Micro-scale Applications group, helping their international users learn more about which microbial species are present and active in their environmental samples.
Suzanne Baker, Brain Wave Fathomer
According to Baker, her path to the MBIB team has been a “weird journey” punctuated with influential mentors and serendipitously timed advancements in the field. Now, after nearly 20 years with Berkeley Lab, she maintains a regular midday break at the nearby lap pool, swearing that these water workouts help her stay focused and productive while working toward understanding how the development of Alzheimer disease changes the brain.
Deepanwita Banerjee, Multi-faceted Modeler
When the COVID-19 pandemic required nearly everyone to stay at home and change their daily routines, Deepanwita Banerjee picked up a new hobby. She started building a miniature house. For Banerjee, who was born and raised in New Delhi, India, reusing items around the house was learned at an early age. This perspective was ingrained and continues to influence her life now — from her at-home dollhouse project to recycling genes to build more sustainable products in her role at Berkeley Lab.
Pier Matisse Roach, Event Entrepreneur
With a family friend established in the music industry, Roach grew up around stars like Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, and Stevie Wonder. After helping discover Destiny’s Child, she transitioned to coaching a Nobel Prize winning scientist at Berkeley Lab. Now, Roach is an administrator in the Biosciences Area Operations Office, working to bring that red carpet feel to everything that she does.