Back to Top
Skip to main content
Kristyn and Don
Two new features — Research Associate Spotlight and Mentor Profiles — will be published quarterly to showcase the valuable contributions made by interns at NETL and the important role the Lab’s researchers play in guiding them toward success. In this quarter’s Research Associate Spotlight, Kristyn Johnson, a graduate intern, explains how her NETL internship has offered “every imaginable opportunity and advantage” to prepare for a rewarding career. Johnson also discusses how she has enjoyed collaborating with world-renowned researchers, including her mentor Don Ferguson, developing new skills and accessing powerful tools such as the Lab’s supercomputer Joule 2.0 to complete projects.
Franklin Regional High School, located in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, claimed victory at the 30th annual Western Pennsylvania Regional Science Bowl (WPASB) high school competition, organized and sponsored by NETL. The event was held Feb. 27, 2021, in a virtual format. Thirty-seven teams from 23 school districts throughout the state participated in the competition. The WPASB tested students’ knowledge of math and science with preliminary and elimination competition rounds. The middle school competition will be held Saturday, March 6. Coming in at second, third and fourth place were North Allegheny Cyber Academy (Wexford), Sewickley Academy (Sewickley) and Winchester Thurston School (Pittsburgh), respectively. This year, teams did not play head-to-head matches and instead competed against all other teams in the virtual competition. Each regional competition had at least two preliminary rounds, in which each individual team was read the same sets of questions during each round. The teams with the highest combined point totals from all preliminary rounds advanced to the Elimination Tournament.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) have awarded five grants totaling $1 million to support training programs that will teach workers new welding techniques and other advanced manufacturing skills. The majority of the funding, $750,000, will be allocated by DOE’s High-Performance Materials program to support the Advanced Welding Workforce Initiative (AWWI) and prepare a new generation of welders to manufacture and service high-temperature alloy components in electric generating stations. Such plants operate at significantly higher temperatures and pressures, which increases efficiency and lowers emissions of carbon dioxide but requires the use of superalloys that can withstand conditions much harsher than those in the older, less efficient facilities.
Fritz’s poster detailed the economic feasibility and challenges of creating a domestic supply of critically important rare earth elements from America’s coal resources.  Alison Fritz, a second year Ph.D. student at Stanford University and Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) fellow at NETL, recently won Best Poster in presenting her research into rare earth element (REE) extraction at the 2021 winter meeting of the Critical Materials Institute (CMI).
leadership group
Data Science leadership from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of the Chief information Officer (OCIO) and National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) researchers continue to work together to bolster the Department’s geo-data science capabilities through strategic interagency connections and participation in valuable workforce development programs. These efforts support the U.S. Geospatial Data Act of 2018 (GDA) as well as the Federal Data Strategy and help to spark innovation and advance scientific research, catalyze economic opportunity, improve the nation’s public health and protect the environment. Geospatial data enables critical DOE research, and this location-based information is integral to the greater policy development, evaluation and decision-making that underpin DOE’s mission. For example, awareness of environmental conditions, energy planning and production, hazard mitigation, emergency response and decision support all benefit from carefully curated geospatial data. Supporting the Geospatial Data Act of 2018
What does the future hold for energy and advanced manufacturing jobs? Find out when the NETL Regional Workforce Initiative hosts the webinar “Predicting Future Regional and National Energy Workforce Needs” on Tuesday, March 9, 2021, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. NETL will be joined by representatives of the Tri-State Energy and Advanced Manufacturing (TEAM) Consortium and the Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) for a discussion about the short- and long-term employment challenges and opportunities facing the energy and advanced manufacturing sector. Speakers from both TEAM Consortium and the EFI will present information on jobs, data trends and analyses of regional workforce issues. The webinar will also explore the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on job growth in the energy industry, as well as highlight approaches and activities to encourage growth in energy and advanced manufacturing technology.
NETL’s STEM Education & Outreach Team supports all types of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning — even if that learning takes place through a screen. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 and into 2021, team members have stayed busy by preparing virtual activities and participating in online events that continue to bring STEM education, information on science career paths and more to students and science professionals during a time of great uncertainty. In the last year, NETL developed the first in a series of virtual Meet A Scientist events to increase the accessibility of the Lab’s research and directly engage with K-12 students in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and rural Oregon. Interested participants submitted questions through NETL’s social media accounts, with researchers addressing selected questions through a live virtual event. Researchers were able to speak about their career pathways and exciting research roles during the event. Future Meet a Scientist events are slated to occur, so check NETL’s social media to learn about future dates and topics.
Female Engineers
NETL’s Reaction Engineering Team is exploring the next breakthroughs in microwave engineering, which has the potential to create valuable chemicals from the nation’s abundant energy resources. Team members Christina Wildfire, Yan Zhou, Pranjali Muley and Candice Ellison are demonstrating the value of this promising technology through their research and serving as examples for future female scientists interested in making positive contributions to America’s energy landscape. Microwave engineering offers a novel approach to developing cleaner and more efficient energy technologies. The team is studying the use of microwaves in converting fuels like coal, oil and natural gas into marketable fuels, chemicals and products. 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 are able to target specific areas for heating, which can save energy and minimize startup and shutdown times compared to conventional energy processes. The team is using this method to explore a wide variety of solutions to America’s current energy challenges.
Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) are working with data science leadership and experts from DOE’s Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) to develop powerful new cloud computing capabilities that are harnessing the power of big data to advance energy research and data computing across the Department.
Power Lines
NETL’s Regional Workforce Initiative (RWFI) continued to forge effective partnerships to increase economic impact, workforce development and technology leadership in the 3D printing and defense/energy industries as it hosted a webinar Feb. 16 with the Regional Advanced Manufacturing and Energy Innovation Group (R-AME). Strengthening, supporting and promoting a regional ecosystem that encompasses advanced manufacturing, energy innovation and entrepreneurship is important in creating high-tech and high-earning jobs, as well as producing lasting economic growth for the region. NETL and the U.S. Department of Energy’s national laboratory network strive to serve as a bridge spanning the early stage of science and discovery to the final stage of commercial deployment by the private sector. The R-AME meeting, which focused on regional efforts, collaborations and partnerships to catalyze research innovation and commercialization of advanced manufacturing and energy technology, marked the third meeting with this group.