Berkeley Lab

3Q4 Ina Reichel

Welcome to 3Q4, in which a few questions help us get to know the people behind the science. In this issue we meet Ina Reichel, Outreach and Education Coordinator on ATAP’s Operations Team and a member of the Advanced Light Source Division’s Communication Team.

Detail of Ina wearing Bohus Stickning sweater

Yarn with a tale to tell

In this detail from the “Women of the 2010s” photostory on the Berkeley Lab 90th Anniversary website, Reichel, a knitting enthusiast, wears a favorite sweater — a classic design from the Bohus Stickning cooperative, a cottage industry that empowered impoverished women in Sweden’s Bohüslan province. A 1995 book led to a revival of interest in their distinctive style, and now kits are available for many of their designs. Hers is made from one of those kits and she has another kit waiting at home.

Reichel earned a PhD from Aachen based on work at CERN, came to the US as a postdoctoral fellow at SLAC, then joined Berkeley Lab to work in ATAP’s Center for Beam Physics. Now (among many endeavors) she furthers both K-12 outreach and IDEA advancement in the workplace, and is a member of ATAP’s social-media team.

Since this is Safety Week in the Physical Sciences Area, we will start with one of the many interests of the self-described “physicist, mom, wife, knitter, backpacker, EMT”: emergency preparedness.

You’ve carried altruism to a high degree by training as an EMT and in
Wilderness First Aid and volunteering on the Lab’s (since discontinued) Medical Emergency Response Team. What suggestions would you have for someone who wants to be prepared to help themselves and others in an emergency?

I think a good way to start is joining your local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). It’s a free 16 hour training usually run by the local fire department plus an all-day Saturday drill where you get to practice some of the things you learned. It’s also a good way to meet other people living in your neighborhood. After a big earthquake, professional emergency responders will likely be overwhelmed. CERT teams can jump in and help their neighbors doing triage and first aid as well as some light search and rescue. There is also a CERT team at the Lab.

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If you are willing to spend more time on volunteering, joining a county’s Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is a good option. The minimum requirement for people without a medical licence is a Basic Life Support CPR card. It requires a three hour class with a written test or an online class/test with a 30 minute in-person skills verification. The card is good for two years.

I volunteer with the Contra Costa MRC. In normal times they do some flu shot clinics in fall, and teach “Stop the Bleed” classes (mostly at high schools). During fire season they provide medical staff to emergency evacuation shelters all across northern California (and sometimes even southern California). In normal years they provide between 1500 and 2000 volunteer hours, most of that being at the evacuation shelters.

During the pandemic, their nurses taught courses on the proper use (including donning and doffing) of PPE for staff members in the county’s residential elder care facilities. Additionally, they ran (and are still running) COVID vaccine clinics. They ran clinics in most of the county’s residential elder care facilities to get residents and staff vaccinated, and they are still running equity clinics in underserved parts of the county to reach as many people as possible.

For anyone enjoying hiking or backpacking in areas with no cell phone signal, I highly recommend taking a Wilderness First Aid class. They are 16 hours long and are usually taught in a single weekend. They can be hard to find on a regular basis for the general public, but REI offers them in the Bay Area monthly, rotating among locations (including one close to Berkeley).

As both an accelerator physicist and the mother of someone now in his sophomore year in college, you bring an interesting set of experiences to your job as our Outreach and Education Coordinator. What are the opportunities and
challenges you see in that role?

When our son was younger, the Lab didn’t yet have its back-up care program, so my husband (also a Berkeley Lab physicist) and I had to sort out who works from home that day. He usually had more meetings than me, and that was before Zoom was a thing, so I was often the one staying home. Try programming some difficult code while sitting in an armchair with a sick toddler on your lap who wants to snuggle, balancing your laptop on the armrest! As a result, I really understand the challenges of parents of younger children during the pandemic. I am so grateful that my son did not really need much supervision or help while attending his last few months of high school from home during the pandemic. But I do feel for the parents of younger children who suddenly have many more caregiving and/or teaching duties than they did pre-pandemic.

Ina Reichel, youngsters at Daughters and Sons to Work Day

Reichel is a regular at the Lab’s educational outreach events. Here she demonstrates cryogenics using a balloon that had been frozen in liquid nitrogen.

Because my job has me plugged into the science education network in the Bay Area, I have a good overview of what programs are around, both for families and for schools. This allowed me to hook up my son’s school to enrichment programs and exciting field trips the teachers might otherwise not have known about.

You’ve been very active in our IDEA programs, notably the Women Scientists and Engineers Council (WSEC). What advice would you give to young women considering a career in these fields, and what can the rest of us do to foster their success and help make this a better workplace for all?

Awareness of imposter syndrome, microaggressions, and implicit bias are three important things.

A few years ago WSEC had a workshop on imposter syndrome, although that expression was not in the title or description. Once the instructor had explained imposter syndrome to the group, a large number of attendees (and not just the young ones) were like, “wait, I am not the only one who is feeling that way? This is so common it actually has a name?”. So one of my recommendations is to learn about imposter syndrome and how to recognize it when it is happening to you.

I sometimes still struggle with it after more than a quarter century as a physicist. Interestingly, as an EMT, I started out with a really bad case of it, but there I can actually recognize it now. I can realize, “this is just my imposter syndrome talking,” and in most cases I can tell it, “I am a competent EMT, I can handle this.” (Or, to use a German saying, die anderen kochen auch nur mit Wasser, which approximately translates to, “the others only use water for boiling as well”).

Another thing to learn about is microaggression (not just against women but against other minorities as well). Learn not to perpetrate microaggressions, and be an upstander if you see them happening. And learn about implicit bias. We all have it, but if we know about it, we can try to counteract it.