Government Research Careers for Scientists

About the Panel

In addition to funding research at academic institutions, the US Government also employs many scientists in various agencies and centers.  These jobs offer the opportunity to do highly stimulating research in a setting that may be unique from a traditional academic research environment.  In order to explore what it means to do scientific research for the government and how this may compare to the more familiar academic research environment, this panel of graduate alumni will reflect on their experiences in both contexts.


Lizette Durand, PhD, Epidemiologist, Field Assignee, IL Department of Public Health at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Lizette O. Durand received her bachelor’s in biochemistry and PhD in Microbiology from the University of Chicago. After a brief post-doc, she went to the University of Pennsylvania for veterinary school. Dr. Durand is currently an epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, assigned to the Illinois Department of Public Health working on health disparities in underserved populations in IL. Previously, she completed the CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Fellowship as an influenza assignee in Lima, Peru, where she worked on influenza surveillance and vaccine strategies in Latin America. As a CDC epidemiologist, Dr. Durand has served on a variety of outbreak response teams including H3N2v, MERS-CoV and just recently returned from West Africa, where she was an integral member of the CDC Ebola Response Team in Liberia.  Dr. Durand is also a member of the uniformed service, she is a LT in the United States Public Health Service.

Mark Peters, PhD, Associate Laboratory Director -- Energy and Global Security -- Argonne National Laboratory: Dr. Mark Peters is Argonne's Associate Laboratory Director for the lab's Energy and Global Security directorate, which includes Argonne’s programs in energy research—including energy storage, renewable energy, energy efficiency  and nuclear energy—and national security. As a recognized expert in nuclear fuel cycle technologies and nuclear waste management, Dr. Peters is called upon frequently to provide expert testimony to Congress and to advise in formulation of policies for nuclear fuel cycles, nonproliferation and nuclear waste disposal.

He has served in many capacities at distinguished laboratories, including at Los Alamos and the California Institute of Technology. His full bio can be found here.

Dr. Peters received his Ph.D. in Geophysical Sciences from the University of Chicago and his B.S. in Geology from Auburn University. He has also received extensive management and leadership education and training, including completion of the Strategic Laboratory Leadership Program at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Bernard J. Rauscher, PhD, Experimental Astrophysicist, Goddard Flight Center, NASA: Dr. Bernard J. (Bernie) Rauscher is an experimental astrophysicist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. His research centers on developing new detector technologies for cosmology (dark matter and dark energy), galaxy evolution and formation, and most recently the search for life on other worlds. Bernie first started working with detectors as a graduate student at the University of Chicago in the mid-80s, where is Ph.D. advisor was Professor Al Harper. There he helped to build a prototype IR camera that was used at the Lick 3-m telescope, facility near-IR array cameras for the Apache Point 3.5-m telescope, and an IR array camera for the South Pole Infrared Explorer. After receiving his Ph.D in 1995, Bernie joined the University of Durham faculty as a Lecturer in Physics. There he helped to develop the Advanced Image Slicer concept that was a pathfinder for image slicers for the 8-m Gemini telescope and James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Near Infrared Spectrograph. Bernie left Durham in 1999 for an opportunity to, “get in on the ground floor” of JWST: first at the Space Telescope Science Institute and later at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Today Bernie serves as the Deputy Project Scientist for JWST’s science instrument suite, Goddard Detector Scientist for the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), and as a member of the WFIRST Science Definition Team. In the lab, Bernie has several projects that aim to develop single photon detectors for astronomy including photon counting CCDs and superconducting single photon detectors for searching for signs of life in other star systems. For his work developing JWST’s near-infrared detectors, Bernie received a Congressional Space Act award and NASA’s Exceptional Achievement Medal.


Robert Rosner, PhD, William E. Wrather Distinguished Service Professor, Departments of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Physics; Enrico Fermi Institute; and the College, University of Chicago: Professor Rosner is the past Chief Scientist and Director of the Argonne National Laboratory. His research work is largely in the areas of theoretical physics and astrophysics, more specifically theoretical and computational fluid and plasma dynamics and plasma astrophysics. He has been especially active in the areas of solar and stellar physics and high-energy astrophysics, as well as in the use of laboratory experiments in verification and validation of simulation codes and in uncertainty quantification of computational modeling. His recent activities have expanded to include code development for more applied areas, including advanced nuclear reactor design, as well as examination of policy implications of various energy production strategies.