PPPL administrators are “the backbone of the Laboratory”

Written by
Jeanne Jackson DeVoe
April 23, 2021

The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory salutes its administrators and celebrates their contributions to the Laboratory. The more than 25 administrators at PPPL provide support to PPPL’s leadership team and more than 600 staff members at PPPL. As Carol Ann Austin, administrative manager of the Office of the Director, put it during an online celebration for Administrative Professionals Day on April 21: “We are truly the backbone of the Laboratory.” Steve Cowley, PPPL director, said the Laboratory’s administrators help the Laboratory achieve its mission of investigating plasma physics and developing fusion energy as an affordable, safe and sustainable way to generate electricity in the future. “There are many, many things that make the Lab run well and the core to that is the administrative professionals who coordinate the whole thing and bring it together and make sure that the team acts as a team,” he said, “so I thank you for that.”

Trisha Perez: Administrators are “the glue that keeps the mission going” 

Name: Trisha Perez 

Position: Senior administrative assistant to the Theory Department

How long at PPPL: Two and a half years

Three things about yourself:

1. “I am a foodie. Pre-covid, I went out to different restaurants with people and tried their culture. I am not scared to try a different culture. My department has so many different ethnic groups and nationalities, so going out with them to their favorite restaurants, I absolutely love it.”

2. “I am 4’11.” I didn’t make the 5-foot crowd. You might not see me in a crowd but I am there.”

3. “I love people. The pandemic has been really hard because I’m such a social person. When it first started, I was trying to Zoom with all my new postdocs that would come in internationally just to make sure they were fine because their families are not here.” 

Describe your job:

“Being an administrative assistant entails a lot of different hands in a lot of different places. I work closely with IT especially since we’re all virtual. I also work with HR when we have visitors coming in or when we have new hires coming in and I make those new introductions. I’m the first face they see when they come in through the doors, or they get an email now and I just provide that personal contact. When they come in, I order items and make stuff personable for them so they feel like they have the right set-up to get their job done.

I always make sure I have an open-door policy. If anyone needs to contact me, I try to respond at my earliest convenience. I help managers and remind them about meetings by sending extra text messages or emails and holding people accountable to their calendar and schedules because Zoom can be very forgetful! I try not to overdo people’s schedules because of Zoom fatigue, so saying, ‘Hey, we have too many Zooms on your calendar, can this wait for another day or try to schedule it next week?’ I try to follow up and make sure everyone is healthy, especially with the vaccine, and remind them to use COVID days instead of sick days. I just try to be that helpful person because people can be so consumed with their work that they just don’t know about the paperwork or the admin work.”

What role do administrators play at PPPL?

"They are everything. They are the glue that keeps the mission going. There are the actual people who work on the machines, the technicians, the physicists, people like that, and we admins bring them all together. PPPL is a pioneer in plasma physics and I think admins help. We are contributors, we are necessary, and we keep everybody accountable. We are central to the mission."

What does working at PPPL mean to you?

"PPPL means being pioneers in the whole plasma physics world. I didn’t know what plasma physics was before I got here. Working with a lot of physicists, I know what it is now and it’s just making the Earth a better place for the next generation. I feel like PPPL is such a selfless organization. We’re putting in the work now so that people can enjoy the Earth later, that’s what it means to me. Just being selfless, putting in the hard work, the long hours, and making a difference and an impact on our current community and our future communities."

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PPPL is mastering the art of using plasma — the fourth state of matter — to solve some of the world's toughest science and technology challenges. Nestled on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, New Jersey, our research ignites innovation in a range of applications including fusion energy, nanoscale fabrication, quantum materials and devices, and sustainability science. The University manages the Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the nation’s single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences. Feel the heat at https://energy.gov/science and https://www.pppl.gov.