Berkeley Lab

Carpooling and Companionship Go Hand in Hand for Staffer

By Theresa Duque

Gauny-Carpool

Stacey Gauny of the Biological Systems & Engineering Division has seen colleagues come and go, and buildings too, since her first day at the Lab in 1991. She was there when her instrument-of-choice, the Bevalac, was decommissioned in 1993. And she was there when its demolition began in 2009 and ended in 2011.

But despite Berkeley Lab’s changing landscape, at least two things in Gauny’s life at the Lab have stayed the same: She’s always worked in Amy Kronenberg’s lab, studying the effects of space radiation on genomic integrity; and she still carpools with Dave Wilson, who is now with the Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging Division.

As a member of the Lab’s Carpool Program Focus Group for the Vehicle Access and Alternative Transportation Advisory Group, Gauny would like anyone who has considered carpooling to give it a shot. “Just try it once a week. Carpooling gives you a chance to be sociable during your commute, and in long-term cases, you become friends,” says Gauny.

In this latest edition of the Commuter Chronicles, Gauny discusses why she started carpooling from El Sobrante more than 20 years ago, and how carpooling has enriched her life.

Q: How long is your commute each way?

My morning commute depends on whether I’m working at Potter or the Lab’s main site. If I’m driving alone to Potter, it takes 20 minutes. If I’m carpooling to the Lab and not working at Potter, 25 minutes. And if I’m carpooling and working at Potter, it takes 45 minutes, because I drop off David at Building 55 and then drive down. After work, everything takes longer: 40 minutes from Potter to home, 30 minutes from the Hill to home, and 50 minutes to home from Potter with a stop to pick up David from the Lab.

Q: When did you start to carpool?

I started carpooling with David 23 years ago. We tried to carpool together as soon as I started working at the Lab, but my hours were too odd at the time. Back then, Amy’s lab would run an experiment late in the night every six or eight weeks at the Bevalac, starting in the evening and ending early in the morning.

All that changed with the Bevalac’s decommissioning in 1993, and my late night work was replaced by biannual trips to Brookhaven National Lab. Now that David and I have similar hours when I’m working in Berkeley, I’m able to carpool most days of the week.

Q: How did you meet your carpool partner?

I met David at a UC Berkeley Karate Club class. I was working for a biotech company in Emeryville at the time, and during class one day, he said that I should consider working at Berkeley Lab. I eventually landed a position in Amy Kronenberg’s lab, and inherited a carpool partner at the same time.

Q: How has carpooling made your life better?

Carpooling has helped me save money on gas and car maintenance, and it’s a great way to relax and talk about your day before and after work. It’s also a great time to mentally set up your day simply by talking about what is coming up. Carpooling can also be more productive than commuting alone: For example, a few months ago I did a test run of a presentation during our drive back to El Sobrante, and David gave really good feedback. That wouldn’t have happened if I had been driving alone.

Another plus is that David and I have similar interests, and we have become really good friends over the years. When we were teaching karate together at the Albany YMCA, we would carpool to the Lab in the morning, to the Y after work, and then up to the UC Karate Club.

Q: How often do you carpool to the Lab?

We shoot for at least three days a week. If we’re lucky, four days will work. We rarely carpool every day. Three days is more doable for people if they’re willing to be flexible.

Q: What challenges did you run into when you first started to carpool? How did you resolve them?

We had to get used to letting each other know if something came up at the last minute. The key to carpooling is that you’ve got to be flexible. When you get to work, know that your carpool partner might call you and say, “I can’t leave on time because I have a half-hour meeting.”

And if for some reason I need to get back home and can’t wait for my carpool partner, I can always use the free Alameda County Guaranteed Ride Home Program.

Staff can provide input via commute.lbl.gov. See the Lab’s Carpool page for information about ridesharing with Lab employees, and the Alameda County Guaranteed Ride Home Program.