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As the world enters a new decade, change is on the horizon — especially in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). According to Forbes, women in the U.S. currently earn the majority of bachelor’s degrees; however, they are underrepresented in fields such as computer science, engineering and mathematics. Additionally, women who earn science and engineering degrees often do not go on to careers in those paths. Closing the gap and ensuring equal female representation in science careers is important in generating new solutions to the nation’s technology challenges. NETL is greatly benefited by the contributions of its many female employees who perform outstanding work and serve as role models for future female leaders in STEM. From managing a wide number of NETL projects to discovering the next breakthroughs in energy technology, read about three women who are making a difference in the science and engineering community below. Patcharin Burke, Ph.D. — Technical Project Coordinator, Materials Science
NETL will share its expertise and research in materials sciences at The Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society’s (TMS) 2020 Annual Meeting and Exhibition Feb. 23-27 in San Diego.   Lab representatives will join more than 4,000 engineers, scientists, business leaders, students and other professionals in the minerals, metals, and materials fields from 70 nations for a week of comprehensive, cross-disciplinary exchange of technical knowledge. In addition to NETL’s participation in about 50 separate project presentations, the Lab will host a booth at the event to network and showcase the Lab’s contributions to the greater materials science community. TMS2020 will provide a space for the work of several NETL researchers, and will feature more than 85 symposia on a broad range of topics, including, but not limited to: physical metallurgy, characterization, light metals, materials processing, corrosion, biomaterials, and materials design.
S and T Accomplishments
NETL researchers leverage the Lab’s world-class capabilities and facilities each day to pursue innovative science and technology (S&T) advances that contribute to technological solutions for America’s energy challenges. The Lab recently celebrated more than 30 notable 2019 S&T accomplishments with an interactive poster session focused on key research priorities that promote safe, reliable and affordable energy nationwide. NETL welcomed Congressional guests and some of its university partners to the Feb. 20 event at the Pittsburgh site. “Fossil energy has supported our nation’s prosperity and economic advancement for generations. To continue to rely on clean, abundant energy requires innovative technology solutions that have a real impact on our energy security and, ultimately, on people’s lives,” NETL Director Brian J. Anderson said. “Today, we’re celebrating exceptional achievements that showcase the progress NETL is making in our important mission to discover, integrate and mature technology solutions that enhance the nation’s energy foundation and protect the environment for future generations.”
A new NETL report and case study released today shows that additional natural gas pipeline capacity and baseload generation units—such as coal and nuclear generation—are critical to providing reliable and affordable electricity during extreme weather events. Both are vitally important to meeting U.S. energy needs as more intermittent electricity sources, such as wind and solar, come onto the U.S. electricity grid. The study, which is Volume II of NETL’s “Reliability, Resilience and the Oncoming Wave of Retiring Baseload Units,” follows two previously published NETL reports that examined the performance of electricity generation units during the “bomb cyclone” of 2018—a winter storm and cold weather event that primarily affected the Eastern Interconnection, one of the three major AC electricity grids responsible for the reliability of the U.S. power system.
Story One
Many of the nation’s leading scientists and engineers will present new energy technologies at the NETL-hosted Spring Fossil Energy R&D Project Review Meeting Tuesday, April 21, through Thursday, April 23, at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh. The meeting also is expected to attract representatives from electric utilities, as well as research universities and private industries who are interested in partnering with NETL on current and future projects. The conference will explore how research and development (R&D) activities sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) are advancing transformative science and innovative technologies that enable the reliable, efficient, affordable and environmentally sound use of fossil fuels. Fossil energy sources constitute more than 80% of the country’s total energy use, and are important to the nation’s security, economic prosperity and growth. Focus areas will include:
The Future of Work
With access to some of the world’s most advanced and powerful computers, NETL uses them to solve some of the world’s most complex energy and advanced manufacturing problems, which will be the subject of the Lab’s upcoming Regional Workforce Initiative (RWFI) Energy 101 webinar series. “The Future of Work” webinar is scheduled 11 a.m. to noon Wednesday Feb. 26. At the center of this webinar is groundbreaking work being conducted by the Lab’s Modeling, Simulation and Analysis group and how research being conducted by the team leads to innovations and discoveries that promote further regional and national economic development. “In addition to developing and supporting the commercialization of new tools, NETL also takes an active role in supporting work force development wherever we can, and this webinar series is one of those avenues,” RWFI Federal Coordinator Anthony Armaly said. “Everyone tuning in on this session can expect to gain a basic understanding of controls and sensors courtesy of NETL’s Computational Science Division, among other topics.”
Structural Material
For NETL researchers like Madison Wenzlick, the field of data analytics holds the key to unlocking the development of alloys needed to operate the next generation of U.S. power plants and keep Americans supplied with abundant, affordable electricity. However, as Wenzlick and her colleagues explain in their recently published article, the availability of high-quality data to design advanced alloys, which are needed to manufacture stronger, heat-resistant power plant components, is limited. “The relevant data for high-temperature alloy design are scattered. There is no central repository of alloy data that can be readily mined,” the researchers wrote in the article, “Data Assessment Method to Support the Development of Creep-Resistant Alloys,” which was published in the Integrating Materials and Manufacturing Innovation journal. “Often the required information is offline and resides in laboratory notebooks or as unwritten expert knowledge,” the authors noted. Addressing the data deficiency is an NETL priority.
The Lab’s K-12 STEM Education & Outreach team assisted several events and led site tours of NETL-Morgantown throughout the month of January. The team also attended events surrounding the integration of technology into education in order to understand how the process of learning will change in an increasingly technology-dependent world. Additionally, representatives from the Lab’s STEM Ambassador program, which seeks to bridge the gap between students and researchers at NETL, shared information with students about the Lab’s capabilities at gatherings and competitions throughout the month to give insight into pursuing a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) career path.
Map Story
NETL has developed an easy-to-use online story map that explores how northwestern Pennsylvania became the birthplace of the modern petroleum industry and the efforts taken by Laboratory scientists to address the ongoing environmental issues from the region’s oil boom more than 150 years ago. The NETL project, “Rediscovery of Abandoned Wells in the World’s First Oil Field,” is a web-based resource that reviews the early development of the oil industry in Venango County and the environmental damage that followed. The story map also walks users through the strategies deployed by NETL researchers to address the area’s proliferation of abandoned wells — some of which continue to emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas, decades after they were taken out of production. The website is interactive and can be used to access the Orphan Well Location Survey, a public tool to forward photos, GPS coordinates and other information about abandoned oil and gas wells anywhere in the United States to NETL researchers.
Hands on Minds on
On a brisk winter morning, teachers Jill Jakub and Kelly Bandik spoke in warm, glowing terms about the strong partnership between their school and NETL. The second-grade teachers at Clara Barton Elementary, part of the West Mifflin Area School District, praised NETL’s K-12 STEM Education & Outreach team for helping them infuse lessons with hands-on approaches that open young minds and make it fun and exciting to learn about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) topics. “Children, especially in early grade levels, learn better when they are engaged, working with their hands, even moving about in the classroom,” said Jakub. “NETL has provided us with a lot of opportunities, ideas and resources to develop and lead lessons that use this approach.”