"Our mission here at LLNL is to serve and protect our country, so what better way than to honor one of our country’s greatest assets: its diversity,” said Nguyen. “It is so important that we do everything in our power to make everyone at the Lab feel included and valued for all that they are and all that they have to offer!”
When Natalie Nguyen was just 11 years old, she and her mother immigrated from Vietnam to the United States. Natalie was the first of her family to attend university and earn a graduate degree.
“There’s a stereotype that all Asian parents want their children to become either doctors or lawyers when they grow up,” said Nguyen. “That wasn’t the case for me. My mom supported me in whatever I wanted to study but with very little guidance or mentorship, I felt lost. Still, I was determined to build a better life for myself, and I knew that if I was going to get an education and have a career, I would have to pave a way of my own.”
As both Nguyen’s mother and brother are labor workers – her mother, a custodian, and her brother, an assembly-line worker – they weren’t always able to provide guidance as she navigated higher education. However, Nguyen’s family still inspired her educational and career decisions.
“I decided to study occupational safety with a focus on industrial hygiene because growing up, my mom and brother would often come home with untreated, minor injuries such as small cuts and chemical burns,” said Nguyen. “They often accepted these injuries as ‘just part of the job’ and there was often no follow up to these incidents, so I entered this field to learn how to protect my family and other people like them.”
Nguyen is an Industrial Safety Professional within the Environment, Safety & Health (ESH) Directorate at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory (LLNL). The ESH teams and Nguyen ensure that scientists, engineers, and other personnel can execute the Lab’s mission in a safe manner.
“When people learn about my occupation and the work that I do, I think they are sometimes surprised that a petite, Asian American woman is responsible for the occupational safety of our employees here,” she said. Natalie used to think that she would need to be loud and authoritative to be taken seriously, but she quickly learned that simply being curious and listening would lead her to creative and favorable solutions. “I always try to communicate that I am safety coach, not a safety cop,” said Nguyen.
Outside of work, Nguyen can be found on local hiking trails with her two dogs, Boba and Bingsu. After joining the Lab in 2022, Nguyen immediately set out to find communities who might share similar experiences. She joined the Asian Pacific American Council (APAC), an employee resource group (ERG) that hosts cultural events that provide community and learning opportunities for Lab employees. She currently serves as the 2023 APAC Secretary and is passionate about creating opportunities for employees to cultivate a sense of belonging in the workplace.
“Our mission here at LLNL is to serve and protect our country, so what better way than to honor one of our country’s greatest assets: its diversity,” said Nguyen. “It is so important that we do everything in our power to make everyone at the Lab feel included and valued for all that they are and all that they have to offer!”