Alumni Profile: Dr. Darcy Wanger Grinolds

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Darcy formal

We recently caught up with alumna Darcy Wanger Grinolds (’08 chemistry), currently working at X (formerly Google[x]) as a Hardware Reliability Engineer.

Grinolds received a MS/BS via the Departmental Scholar program in Physical Chemistry/Materials Science with an Organic Emphasis in 2008. While at UCLA she worked in Prof. Ben Schwartz’s group where she designed experiments to measure electronic effects of polymer/fullerene morphology and performed electronic and optical characterization experiments to probe polymer solar cell limitations. “Darcy was as productive as any graduate student I’ve had” said Schwartz. She was also an undergraduate researcher in Prof. Yves Rubin’s laboratory where she synthesized, purified, and characterized fullerene compounds for solar cells.

After graduation, Grinolds went on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she received her Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry in 2014. Under the supervision of Prof. Moungi Bawendi, she studied chemistry and physics of nanoparticle solar cells. While at MIT she was featured in a series of education lab videos which highlighted “real live chemists” and their chemistry. 

In 2014, Grinolds was hired as a Hardware Reliability Engineer at the top secret experimental laboratory Google[x] (now called X), situated at Google’s Mountain View HQ.

Grinolds took the time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions.

In general, what are the duties of a Hardware Reliability Engineer?

As a Hardware Reliability Engineer, my job is to figure out how a product might break and then how to make it robust enough not to break like that in the hands of a user. It’s a combination of experimental design, electrical and mechanical troubleshooting, and materials characterization, and involves working with a lot of different teams to solve problems together.

How was your experience doing undergraduate laboratory research at UCLA?

Undergraduate research was the defining aspect of my time at UCLA. In the short term, it provided me something to invest in on a longer timescale than the coursework of a quarter, made coursework feel more meaningful (even when the content wasn’t directly related), and gave me a great small community of people on campus that was removed from my classes. In the long term, it gave me the mentality and tools for a successful Ph.D. and career.

What would be your advice to current and future UCLA Chemistry and Biochemistry students?

Ask questions when you don’t understand things. It will help you understand more things later, and will help you identify the way you learn best. Consider it your job to challenge the professors and teaching assistants to be able to explain things thoroughly and in many different ways – you’re doing them and students that follow you a service by challenging them in this way!

What are one or two interesting facts about you?

I play the bassoon! At UCLA and afterward, this has included playing in music ensembles ranging from quartets to musical theatre pit orchestras to full orchestras and bands.

What are your plans for the future?

Solve fun and challenging problems with people I enjoy. As long as I keep those aspects as part of my professional career, I think I’ll be very satisfied!