Paris Gordon’s love of science started at a young age, as did her connection to Berkeley Lab. Throughout her 24 years here, she has built strong relationships with people from all around the world. Find out more about what she does in the User Office.
How did you join the ALS team, and where else have you worked at the Lab?
It’s actually my third time at the ALS. The first time, I was an HR assistant for the ALS HR office in Building 80. I really liked the group, and when the administrative assistant position became available to work in the User Office, I always had a fascination with badges and the picture taking part, and I thought that would be a lot of fun. It’s totally different this time around because we do not do that anymore, but I like the group a lot, and I still interact with individuals that I interacted with previously.
I’ve been at Berkeley Lab for 24 years. I started off in the Environment, Health & Safety (EH&S) Division Office, and I think it was probably the best place I could have begun because everyone had interaction with us, so you learn a lot. Then, I worked with the EH&S Waste Management Group, and from there, Engineering. Eventually, I was recruited to work in HR. I loved the interaction with students, staff both onsite and on campus. I learned early on to form great relationships with people and never compromise those relationships for anyone.
The people are always memorable. I was an HR assistant for Materials Sciences Division (MSD) when [ALS Research Scientist] Alpha N’Diaye started as a postdoc at the National Center for Electron Microscopy (NCEM). Jeff Neaton was someone I hired when he first joined the Lab, and now he’s the Associate Laboratory Director. Marisa Davis was our student assistant in the Molecular Foundry, and now she’s the main support for Jeff Neaton. People joke, “People you hired tend to move up the ladder.”
What does your work entail?
Currently, I work with Shawna Vila under the supervision of Heidi Clark to process ALS users. I interact with the HR and Site Security departments to facilitate user processing, lend support to ALS administrators, and assist with foreign and domestic travel.
In these positions of customer service, you can’t just say, “I don’t know the answer.” You have to go and find the answer. We’re working with users that are coming from all over the world from many institutions, and it’s just important that we get them on the floor, that we’re doing it according to DOE policies and maintaining a high level of integrity, providing them with the best customer service possible.
Working at the Lab can feel like being part of a family, but your actual family also worked here, right?
My mother was pregnant with my brother and worked in Health Services many years ago. My father is an electron microscopist. And where do you think he interned one summer? NCEM. He’s still a scientist…and he’s Barack-A-Like, a Barack Obama impersonator.
I always liked science. Obviously, it was something going on in my house. And the funny part is I’ve always loved physical sciences. One of my favorite chemistry experiments is separating sand, salt, and benzoic acid. I always thought that was neat. I also liked when we had to make a bridge out of soft wood in a group—sometimes, I see them building on the freeway and think of that. I also remember studying about a physicist in sixth grade. My mom told me to go to sleep, but I took a night light and read this biography all night and composed a ten-page handwritten report by morning!
Are you involved in any inclusion, diversity, equity, and accountability (IDEA) activities?
I’m part of the African American Employee Resource Group. We have so many people from various cultures working at and coming to the lab. This provides an opportunity to learn and become exposed to other cultures and perspectives. I worked with a gentleman from Turkey who gave me a Nazar (amulet), and I still keep one over my door to this very day. When I worked in HR, I met a man from Canada, and his wife wanted to practice herbal medicine, so I suggested one of our campus professors who might know someone. It helped her out, as I always attempt to make a connection.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I am a social butterfly, who loves live music. Between January and February, I went to Yoshi’s Oakland at least five times! I also like theater and sports. My favorite is March Madness—my dad got me into it, and I always fill out a bracket. Currently, I am hyped about the NBA playoffs, Let’s Go Warriors! I’ve been following the Warriors since the fourth grade and my favorite basketball player of all time is Julius Erving (Dr. J).