Deborah Agarwal, Ph.D.

Deborah Agarwal, Ph.D.

Department Head, Advanced Computing for Science

Group Lead, CyberInfrastructure Development

Computational Research Division

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory


Brief Bio:

Dr. Agarwal's research focuses on scientific tools that enable sharing of scientific experiments, advanced networking infrastructure to support sharing of scientific data, data analysis support infrastructure for eco-science, and cybersecurity infrastructure to secure collaborative environments. 

Some of the projects Dr. Agarwal is working on include: AmeriFlux data processing and management, advanced computational subsurface modeling data management, and infrastructure for carbon capture simulations. As a member of the Berkeley Water Center collaboration between the University of California at Berkeley and Berkeley Lab, Dr. Agarwal leads a team developing data server infrastructure to significantly enhance data browsing and analysis capabilities and enable eco-science synthesis at the watershed-scale to understand hydrologic and conservation questions and at the global-scale to understand carbon flux. 

Dr. Agarwal received her Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from the University of California at Santa Barbara and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University.


1.      What inspires you to work in STEM?

The world is now so dependent on computing for everything. It is exciting to help shape the design of that computing infrastructure and how we interact with it. Everything from the car that you drive to your phone has a computer, and computer programs that enable their operation. Computer devices and software are also critical in areas such as health care, financial markets, science, and throughout the medical profession. I love being part of the CS profession, which is continually enabling new capabilities in the world around us, and doing my share to make it happen.

2.      What excites you about your work at the Energy Department/Berkeley Lab?

The opportunity to work with top scientists in cosmology, physics, biology, Earth sciences, applied mathematics, computer science, and many other disciplines on a daily basis is an incredible experience. As a computer scientist working with these scientists, I get to help enable major scientific advancements in the understanding of climate change, the carbon cycle, the origin of the universe, the hydrologic cycle, and energy alternatives, to name a few. During my career at Berkeley Lab, I’ve also been lucky enough to have many amazing once- in-a-lifetime opportunities, including spending three months at the United Nations in Vienna working with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization and being part of supplying the software and hardware that was flown in to Antarctica to support the doctor diagnosed with cancer during her winter-over. Through my work, I have also had the opportunity to travel all over the world to conferences and meetings and to work with collaborators in the U.S. and abroad. Being at a national laboratory has allowed me much greater flexibility and opportunity to get involved in different research areas and projects than would have been possible in academia or industry.

3.       How can our country engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM?

There are many misunderstandings regarding what a career in Computer Science would be like: the stereotypes need to be dispelled. We are not just geeks with a keyboard who play video games in our spare time. In fact, I would say the geeks are in the minority. The field is building the devices that shape our lives so we need representation from across our population to help shape these devices so they work well for all of us In addition, it is one of the most stable careers (it is rare to find an unemployed computer scientist, even in a down economy).

4.      Do you have tips you would recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?

Do not worry if you have not been playing with computers since you were young. The Computing Science field is changing so rapidly that it is rarely an advantage to be well versed in the previous technology and sometimes it is a disadvantage. Almost anything you want to do, you can do in this field.

5.      When you have free time, what are your hobbies?

Sailing, sailboat racing, boats in general, surfing, and swimming.