Director's Corner

Release Date: August 28, 2015

NETL’s Greatest Asset


I am frequently asked, “What’s so special about NETL?” I respond that we have a long list of impressive accomplishments—innovations that strengthen the nation both inside and outside the energy arena. But what makes us truly exceptional is our people. I am proud and justifiably honored to work with an outstanding staff and to share their stories with my colleagues inside and outside the laboratory.

People are NETL’s greatest asset. It takes a special workforce to tackle energy research and find solutions to America’s energy challenges. At NETL, we boast just such a workforce. Across our multiple sites, we have nearly 1,400 employees who provide the laboratory with wide-ranging competencies, from computational science to chemical engineering to business, finance, and acquisition.

NETL’s people are educated, talented, and experienced. More than 120 NETL employees hold doctorates, nearly 200 hold master’s degrees as their terminal degree, and another 200 hold a bachelor’s as their terminal degree. These highly qualified and gifted individuals are innovating clean energy systems, designing intelligent materials for energy applications, conducting in-depth geological and environmental science investigations, and using high-performance computing to conduct simulations that hasten the development of more effective fossil energy technologies. We even have metallurgical experts so skilled in alloy development that their innovations have been adapted for life-saving applications in the medical world.

Our research accomplishments are just part of the story. NETL’s scientists and other employees aren’t shy about sharing their experiences. The result is a better-equipped next generation of researchers and solid improvements to the communities in which they live. There are lot of examples. Here are a few:

  • Earlier this month, more than 30 Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship interns wrapped up their summer program at NETL. This wouldn’t have been such a success without the generosity, patience, and expertise of the NETL staff.
  • In July, the entire Pittsburgh site pitched in to host minority youths as part of the national My Brother’s Keeper program in an ongoing effort to encourage young people to enter STEM fields.
  • Each year, our labs in Pittsburgh and Morgantown host regional Science Bowl competitions entirely run by volunteers. By engaging local high school and middle school students, our employees help ensure that the United States will have a STEM-savvy workforce for years to come.
  • Throughout the school year, NETL staff visit more than a dozen elementary and middle schools to provide hands-on learning experience on energy and related STEM topics.

Beyond our research accomplishments and institutional dedication to the next generation, many of our employees are actively involved in community improvement. They have assembled an astonishing record of community betterment by volunteering their skills and time for activities such as recreation for children with disabilities, therapy equestrian programs, student robotics competitions, fundraising for important charities, and other civic engagements that bring comfort, assistance, and improvement to our neighbors and the community as a whole.

These are just a few examples of the wonderful work our employees do. This month, as the Energy Department’s national labs celebrate #LabLife, I invite you to visit our People of the Lab page where we’re spotlighting some of our employees and their generous contributions of time and effort in support of the greater good. I’m confident you’ll share my favorable impression and great pride—and perhaps gain a few more ways to answer the question, “What’s so special about NETL?”

As Acting Director of NETL, Sean I. Plasynski, Ph.D., builds on an extensive background in energy as he leads NETL in its mission to enhance the nation’s energy independence and protect the environment for future generations. For more information about Sean Plasynski's experience, please click here.