Skip to navigation Skip to content
Careers | Phone Book | A - Z Index

“Debfest,” Celebrating Deb Agarwal’s Contributions to Science and Berkeley Lab Culture

July 17, 2023

By Linda Vu

On Friday, July 7, former Scientific Data Division Director Deb Agarwal’s family, friends, and colleagues gathered at UC Berkeley’s Faculty Club to celebrate her 29-year career and contributions to Berkeley Lab Computing Sciences area—an event jokingly dubbed “Debfest.”

The day started with a workshop called “Diversity and Equity: Building the Future of Engineering, Science, and Technology,” which Agarwal helped organize to identify ways the Department of Energy’s national laboratories and the computer and data science fields can progress in diversifying the workforce.

The workshop included participants from the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), Argonne, Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, and Oak Ridge national laboratories, among many other organizations. The event opened with discussions about existing diversity efforts, lessons learned, and ways to build on these existing efforts. Staff who have benefitted and contributed to these diversity and inclusion efforts also shared some of their personal experiences. The workshop closed with a leadership panel, moderated by Agarwal, featuring senior management, including department heads and division directors, discussing opportunities for recruiting, retaining, and advancing the careers of underrepresented groups at the national laboratories.

After the workshop, Agarwal’s colleagues and collaborators throughout her career spoke of her impact on DOE programs, projects, and their personal career trajectories. A reception and dinner followed the event.

“Deb is an innovative and collaborative scientist whose impactful accomplishments have ensured Berkeley Lab is a leader in providing data infrastructure for international environmental science projects. She has also been one of the Lab’s most tireless advocates for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and I’m pleased to see her celebrated at this workshop,” said Michael Witherell, Berkeley Lab Director.

Group photo of DebFest attendees.

“I have benefited from Deb’s mentoring and supervision over the years,” said Lavanya Ramakrishnan, Interim Director of the SciData Division. “I admire Deb for many things; she always encouraged me to be myself and lived by example, bringing her authentic self to work. Deb’s leadership style is an inspiration to many.”

“Deb has played a pivotal role in using computer and data science to address the needs of diverse scientific communities and laid a strong foundation for Berkeley Lab to lead in the field of data science,” said Jonathan Carter, Associate Laboratory Director for Computing Sciences. “In addition, her commitment to diversity in science has been both inspirational and highly effective. I am grateful for her many contributions and look forward to the area building on her legacy. I wish her all the best in retirement.”

About Berkeley Lab

Founded in 1931 on the belief that the biggest scientific challenges are best addressed by teams, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and its scientists have been recognized with 16 Nobel Prizes. Today, Berkeley Lab researchers develop sustainable energy and environmental solutions, create useful new materials, advance the frontiers of computing, and probe the mysteries of life, matter, and the universe. Scientists from around the world rely on the Lab’s facilities for their own discovery science. Berkeley Lab is a multiprogram national laboratory, managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit