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Women's History Month Profile: Christina Wildfire

Researcher Advances Microwave Technology to Meet Energy Challenges

As a member of the NETL Reaction Engineering Team, Christina Wildfire is exploring the next breakthroughs in microwave technology.

Microwaves offer a unique opportunity to researchers because they can provide rapid, selective heating on a molecular scale. While conventional heating works from the outside in, microwaves target specific areas for heating, which can save energy and minimize startup and shutdown times compared to conventional energy processes.

A researcher at NETL since 2016, Christina is the principal investigator on the low-pressure microwave ammonia synthesis project, which received the 2020 IChemE Global Awards in the category of Research Project for its potential to aid in agriculture, energy production and other applications while also lowering costs and overall energy use.

Christina’s research interests include material synthesis, catalysis, microwave reactions and scaling up the microwave process. She has authored 34 peer-reviewed journal publications and conference proceedings. Christina received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. She received her doctorate in material science from West Virginia University.

Christina loves the great outdoors and often goes hiking and camping with her family.  She also enjoys traveling and yoga.

Why is it important that women are equally represented in STEM fields?

In any profession, it is important to have diversity. Women bring diversity not only in gender but in our way of thinking, interacting with others and in our backgrounds. I have been in many different work environments. It truly works best when there is more diversity. You get more perspectives, different types of problem-solving and a better sense of community. Women are an important part of science and I hope I can play a part in bringing more to our research.

What is one highlight of your career at NETL that you would like to share?

I have really enjoyed being part of a team that has introduced and grown a new technology into the energy space as part of reducing our carbon emissions. I started at NETL knowing nothing about microwave reactions and now lead several projects using the technology. Being able to grow as a researcher along with the technology has been incredible. 

What is one of your future career goals?

A big goal is to see one of my microwave projects used in industry. I think it is a goal for most of us at the lab. It is our way of giving back as public servants/government employees, to be able to use our technology and expertise to enable a cleaner future.

Christina Wildfire

Christina Wildfire