Managing day-to-day operations, staffing the phones, handling emails, preparing documents and presentations, scheduling, managing calendars, screening, ordering, networking, communicating, supporting. If this sounds like a lot, it is. It is what the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory administrative assistants do daily. They are, in a word, indispensable. In recognition of their work and in their honor on Administrative Professionals Day on April 26, ORNL Communications talked with some of them, and here is one of their stories, just a small representative sample of the people who help keep ORNL running.
Monica Miller was primed to become a pharmacist, until she took those darn physics courses.
“Physics changed my mind on that,” Monica said. “I just didn’t enjoy it.”
Instead, in an ironic twist of fate that has worked out in an untold number of ways, Monica works with physicists all day as the administrative assistant in the Advanced Radiation Detection, Imaging, Data Science, and Applications Group of the Physics Division. So now, she deals with computational and theoretical physics all day, every day.
She will do anything needed for the staff and leadership, “just don’t ask me to do physics,” she says.
Monica started in February 2022 and, “It’s going great, I love it,” she said. “It’s truly like a family atmosphere; I have the best job, I really do. The people here actually care about you outside of the job too, they check on you, ask about your family. I truly feel that they care.”
Working as a pharmacy technician for a drug compounding company servicing nursing homes and assisted living facilities, Monica left after the COVID pandemic.
“That was one of the saddest places to be, delivering those medications,” Monica said. “The residents were on lockdown. It broke my heart. They would cry when they saw you, because they had no outside visitors. It took a toll on me, and I wanted to go and try what I really went to school for.”
With a college degree in business management from Tennessee Tech University, Monica worked as an administrative assistant at the Y-12 National Security Complex before coming to ORNL, and never looked back.
I like the flexibility to work on things as they come in and be able to get them done. It’s not the same thing every day. Really it’s something different almost daily.
The skills that define success as an administrative assistant are varied, she said. “You definitely need person skills, communications, and the ability to not be afraid to ask questions or ask for help when needed. And basic computer skills are definitely a plus.”
Monica also has some advice for someone looking to work at the lab: “Never give up. I thought there would be no way I would get in here. You have to keep at it.”
Outside the lab, Monica enjoys time with her husband, also an ORNL staffer, and pet Corgi. She is a passionate crafter, especially Cricut. “Doing crafts is my favorite activity,” she said. But her second family, the one at ORNL, gives her great satisfaction as well. “I’m so happy where I am right now,” she said. — Lawrence Bernard
UT-Battelle manages ORNL for DOE’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.