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Talita Perciano Recognized as Outstanding Mentor

August 17, 2021

By Linda Vu

Contact: [email protected]

CRD's Talita Perciano with SULI intern Natalie MacKay in 2019.

Talita Perciano (right) with SULI intern Natalie MacKay (left) in 2019.
(Photo by Thor Swift, Berkeley Lab)

Talita Perciano, a research scientist in CRD’s Machine Learning and Analytics Group, is being recognized for providing exceptional mentorship to students participating in various internships provided by Berkeley Lab, including the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI), the Berkeley Lab Undergraduate Research internship (BLUR), Visiting Faculty Program (VFP), the Community College Internship Program (CCI), and Sustainable Research Pathways (SRP). 

In a normal year, Berkeley Lab’s Workforce Development & Education celebrates its mentors at an awards reception held onsite at the Lab in September. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in place of the usual recognition ceremonies, Berkeley Lab is virtually recognizing six upstanding mentors, who served in 2019 and 2020. Perciano will be celebrated for her mentorship work in summer 2020. That year, she virtually mentored six students and a VFP faculty member. 

“I had really incredible mentors throughout my career, I learned so much from them. They taught me how to be a researcher, how to deal with difficult problems, and how to analyze different solutions. Their lessons, advice, and support influenced the course of my career. This is the kind of experience that I want to share with my mentees,” said Perciano. “As a mentor, I also appreciate the opportunity to cultivate, as much as possible, the presence of women and underrepresented groups in science.” 

In addition to sharing lessons with her mentees, Perciano also appreciates how much she learns from the students she works with.  

“One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned from my students is to have flexibility. You can’t mentor every student the same way. Some students need to go at a slower pace, some need to sync up daily, and you need to be flexible and adapt to that,” said Perciano. “I’ve also learned a lot of technical things from my students. Even though I’m a computer scientist with expertise in image analysis, machine learning, and high performance computing, I don’t know every single thing. Some students go so deep into the technical project that they’re working on and they teach me new methods and solutions that I may have not been aware of.” 

“Having Talita as a mentor for the last three summers has been an incredibly rewarding experience. She has pushed me out of my comfort zone with my projects and has given me the freedom to explore topics that interest me. I’ve never felt like just an assistant. I’ve also learned a lot about thinking outside the box while working with her,” said Anuradha Trivedi. “Before actually getting involved with research, I would have never expected the amount of creativity that goes into every idea for every project. I still have so much to learn, but having Talita as my mentor has given me a starting place and someone I know I can reach out to years after the internships for advice.” 

Trivedi began interning at Berkeley Lab with Perciano three summers ago when she was an undergraduate at Virginia Tech studying applied computational mathematics. This fall, she will begin her graduate studies in biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. 

“What I love most about working at Berkeley Lab is the work environment, which has helped me prepare for going into a research career,” said Trivedi. “I've gotten to work with people from many backgrounds, divisions, and groups, and I've had a chance to see just a small amount of the amazing science done at the lab. My advisor at Virginia Tech, who did a practicum at Berkeley Lab as a graduate student, helped me apply to the internship program. My experience after that summer inspired me to return as many times as possible.”