Meet Kim Danny: future environmental scientist

dannykimberly (Download Image) Kimberly Danny, a graduate student from the University of Arizona, aspires to become an environmental scientist.

Editor's Note: This is one in a series of articles highlighting the diverse group of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory summer students.


The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) student internship program is designed to allow students to engage in work-study employment opportunities in relevant science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and administrative fields during the summer academic break. This year, LLNL is proud to welcome more than 600 students from universities nationwide and around the world.  

Introducing Kimberly Danny…

Full name: Kimberly Danny

Hometown:  Flagstaff, Arizona

University attending/educational background: I am near completion of my master’s of science degree from the University of Arizona. My bachelor’s degree is in environmental engineering from Northern Arizona University.

Major: Soil water, and environmental science (focus on contaminant transport)

Graduation year: 2015 (December)

LLNL Directorate you are working in: Environmental Restoration Department (ERD) in the Operations and Business Directorate

What interested you in pursuing a summer internship at the Laboratory?

This is actually my sixth summer internship at the Laboratory. Before my first summer internship, I had never heard of LLNL. I became aware of the Lab when Steve Grey, leader of the American Indian Program, was recruiting students and was given the opportunity to intern my sophomore year in 2008. Through that internship, I was exposed to all the innovative technology at the Lab and was impressed by the forward thinking regarding the environment. In 2011, I came back to intern through the Minority Serving Institutes Program and I have been here every summer since. I really enjoy the work I have done and what I am doing now.

What do you enjoy most about interning at the Laboratory?

I enjoy how easy it is to ask employees and experts not only for help, but also about their jobs, interests, professional advice and more. They are always willing to meet with you and answer questions. 


What have you learned (or are learning) that has made a difference to you?

Spending my summers at LLNL has helped me in figuring out what educational and career path I want to take. Near the end of my undergraduate years, I realized I wasn’t as interested in environmental engineering as I wanted to be, so I felt lost in what I wanted to do next. After working on uranium geochemistry and hydrology projects in the Environmental Restoration Division in 2011 and 2012, I thought to myself, "This is what I want to do." Now I am pursuing a master’s degree in soil, water and environmental science.

Where do you see yourself after graduation? What is your dream job?

I would like to continue in the field of contaminant fate and transport. My first choice would be to continue working at the Environmental Restoration Department at LLNL. Eventually, I want to be able to use my expertise and apply it to contaminate fate and transport issues on tribal lands.

Who/what has inspired you to pursue an education and career in a STEM field?

My family and my many teachers and mentors from elementary school to graduate school have inspired me to choose a STEM major. Additionally, I chose a STEM career because I believe it might help my community and tribe.

What has been your biggest challenge to overcome?

My greatest challenge was battling the "imposter syndrome" during graduate school. Graduate school and thesis research is so much more difficult than I had expected and I wasn’t prepared for it. I seriously contemplated dropping out of my program. Now, I have my feet on more solid ground, and I’m feeling confident now that I have a clear research plan.

What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment so far?

Being a Native American woman in STEM and graduating with a bachelor’s of science degree. I hope to soon top that with a master’s of science degree.


As a college student, what is the most important lesson you have learned?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I was extremely shy and timid when I was younger. Thus, whenever I was really lost in class or at work, I didn’t say anything to anyone. I learned to ask questions, and it has saved me so much time and anxiety.

What advice would you give a high school student?

Take advantage of the educational resources that are available to you, especially if they are in your field of interest. These resources include college preparation workshops, field trips, summer programs and more. These great opportunities lead to even more opportunities.

What do you like to do in your spare time? What are your hobbies?

I like to make quilts when I have a lot of time. Choosing patterns, cutting out pieces and sewing is very therapeutic for me. I also like to take day trips. I choose a destination within 2-3 hours, and stop at every little roadside stand or museum along the way.

What is next for you/what are you looking forward to?

I’m really looking forward to graduation and beginning my career.


To learn more about summer internships and the Laboratory’s scholar programs, visit the scholars@llnl website. Follow insideLLNL on Twitter  for an inside look at the people and events at LLNL.