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Clarina dela Cruz

Maturing through early career program to gain lead instrument scientist position at ORNL

Clarina dela Cruz

Clarina dela Cruz, Ph.D. (physics, University of Houston), spends her days at ORNL’s High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) conducting neutron scattering experiments. She is working with correlated electron systems such as superconductors and multiferroic materials in order to understand their physical properties. This knowledge and insight can lead to more efficient application of the materials for memory storage, energy transport and medicine, among others.

At HFIR, dela Cruz serves as a lead instrument scientist on the neutron powder diffractometer. Her participation in the Neutron Sciences Early Career Development Program from 2010 to 2012, which was managed by ORAU, allowed her to gain the leadership and scientific skills necessary to become an ORNL staff scientist in 2013. “With the guidance of my many wonderful mentors at ORNL, I believed in the science I wanted to pursue and knew that the rest I would just have to learn,” she said.

During her participation in the early career program, dela Cruz learned how to run a user program on the state-of-the-art neutron powder diffractometer. She had to manage not only the operation of the instrument, but the safety of other users, data acquisition and analysis, and scientific publication of results.

“I definitely matured as a person as I dealt with multifaceted problems while working in a fast-paced environment. The program also gave me the opportunity to assess whether the long-term goals of the lab aligned with my own. It was a great step-off point to being here.”

In 2014, dela Cruz received the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics C10 Young Scientist Prize, which recognized both her exceptional achievement so far in condensed matter physics as well as her promise for continued success. Dela Cruz has also authored 17 scientific publications and spoken at national conferences on physics, materials science and crystallography.

“I definitely matured as a person as I dealt with multifaceted problems while working in a fast-paced environment,” she said. “The program was a great step-off point to being here.”