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“Debfest,” Celebrating Deb Agarwal’s Contributions to Science and Berkeley Lab Culture

July 15, 2023

By Linda Vu
Contact: cscomms@lbl.gov

On Friday, July 7, former Scientific Data Division Director Deb Agarwal’s family, friends, and colleagues gathered at UC Berkeley’s Faculty Club to celebrate her 29-year career and contributions to Berkeley Lab Computing Sciences area—an event jokingly dubbed “Debfest.”

The day started with a workshop called “Diversity and Equity: Building the Future of Engineering, Science, and Technology,” which Agarwal helped organize to identify ways the Department of Energy’s national laboratories and the computer and data science fields can progress in diversifying the workforce.

The workshop included participants from the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), Argonne, Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, and Oak Ridge national laboratories, among many other organizations. The event opened with discussions about existing diversity efforts, lessons learned, and ways to build on these existing efforts. Staff who have benefitted and contributed to these diversity and inclusion efforts also shared some of their personal experiences. The workshop closed with a leadership panel, moderated by Agarwal, featuring senior management, including department heads and division directors, discussing opportunities for recruiting, retaining, and advancing the careers of underrepresented groups at the national laboratories.

After the workshop, Agarwal’s colleagues and collaborators throughout her career spoke of her impact on DOE programs, projects, and their personal career trajectories. A reception and dinner followed the event.

“Deb is an innovative and collaborative scientist whose impactful accomplishments have ensured Berkeley Lab is a leader in providing data infrastructure for international environmental science projects. She has also been one of the Lab’s most tireless advocates for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and I’m pleased to see her celebrated at this workshop,” said Michael Witherell, Berkeley Lab Director.

Group photo of DebFest attendees.

“I have benefited from Deb’s mentoring and supervision over the years,” said Lavanya Ramakrishnan, Interim Director of the SciData Division. “I admire Deb for many things; she always encouraged me to be myself and lived by example, bringing her authentic self to work. Deb’s leadership style is an inspiration to many.”

“Deb has played a pivotal role in using computer and data science to address the needs of diverse scientific communities and laid a strong foundation for Berkeley Lab to lead in the field of data science,” said Jonathan Carter, Associate Laboratory Director for Computing Sciences. “In addition, her commitment to diversity in science has been both inspirational and highly effective. I am grateful for her many contributions and look forward to the area building on her legacy. I wish her all the best in retirement.”

About Computing Sciences at Berkeley Lab

High performance computing plays a critical role in scientific discovery. Researchers increasingly rely on advances in computer science, mathematics, computational science, data science, and large-scale computing and networking to increase our understanding of ourselves, our planet, and our universe. Berkeley Lab’s Computing Sciences Area researches, develops, and deploys new foundations, tools, and technologies to meet these needs and to advance research across a broad range of scientific disciplines.