Candace Major’s Impressive Career in Earth and Environmental Sciences Continues at Battelle

alt= headshot of Candace Major

During her remarkable career, Candace Major has worked at some of the most impressive scientific organizations on the planet. Now, her lifelong desire to address real-world problems and societal needs while simultaneously advancing fundamental scientific knowledge has brought her to Battelle, and the fit couldn’t be better. 

Major is a fifth-generation Washingtonian born at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the daughter of a Coast Guard officer. She was an outdoorsy kid who learned first-hand lessons about boats and the ocean from her father, she knew she wanted to work in a way that helped the environment. She just didn’t know how.

Attending Wesleyan University in Connecticut, Major considered a broadly interdisciplinary major in environmental studies. In her sophomore year, she got advice from a professor that is espoused at Battelle to this day: An education based in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) is the surest foundation for an impactful career in many different fields. “So, I started focusing more on science classes and found I really loved geoscience,” she said.

A summer internship at Columbia University in 1993 provided an opportunity to study sea level changes in the Black Sea. She got hands-on experience taking core samples and seismic high-resolution profiles as well as some eye-opening experiences with the locals (there are books and documentaries about it). Suffice it to say, she didn’t make it out of Russia with her data, so to fill the rest of her internship, she landed aboard a research vessel in the Labrador Sea. “I was hooked,” she said, “on ocean and climate research.”

In graduate school at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship allowed Major the freedom to pursue varied research interests.  Her graduate experience was unusually wide-ranging for a PhD student. “I was interested in doing lots of things and was supported in pursuing a variety of interests,” she said. 

alt=landscape of the ice caps in the arctic

An NSF-funded International Research Followship supported her postdoctoral research at the Laboratory for Climate and Environmental Sciences, part of the French National Centre for Scientific Research in Paris, where she focused in on paleoclimate research and marine geochemistry.

From Paris, Major took a position at the prestigious Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for four years; However, “I wanted to know what we are doing with all this information and how is it helping people?’” she said. “We have all this knowledge, with respect to past and current climate, but what are we doing with it? I wanted to translate that information into something people could use.”

Her desire to work at the interface of fundamental research and its stakeholders including the public led to her decision to move into federal service at NSF.

As a Program Director at NSF, Major’s role shifted from researcher to research facilitator. During her time at NSF, she funded groundbreaking research and facilities across the geosciences. She served as a Program Director in Ocean, Atmosphere, and Earth Science divisions, and also spent a term in the federal Senior Executive Service, the top-level of federal management personnel, during which she served as the Section Head for Marine Geosciences and the Division Director for Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences.

The best part of serving at NSF, she says, was the opportunity to work closely with scientists and help steer the direction of science to meet new challenges. That’s when she found Battelle, where she is working as Senior Climate Technology Leader on the organization’s Climate Resilience campaign. “I love the idea of solutions science,” she said. “The place to do it is Battelle. It’s the best place in the country and second-to-none in its role in solutions driven applied science. Battelle also allows me to continue to address real-world, timely problems that help society while simultaneously advancing scientific knowledge. I show up to work every day excited. The work is challenging but very satisfying.”

Polar Research Operations

Supporting NSF Funded Research in the Arctic.

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May 22, 2024
Battelle Insider
Estimated Read Time
4 Mins

Polar Research Operations

Supporting NSF Funded Research in the Arctic

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