Director's Corner

Release Date: March 03, 2017

In Recognition of Women’s History Month

NETL researchers listed left to right (top) Dr. Ranjani Siriwardane, Dr. Alexandra Hakala, Dr. Cynthia Powell, (bottom) Dr. Barbara Kutchko, and Dr. Circe Verba.

Thirty years ago, Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month to honor extraordinary achievements of American women. It would take many pages for me to recognize the many talented and innovative women who have been responsible for “extraordinary achievements” in support of NETL’s mission to discover, integrate, and mature technology solutions to enhance the nation’s energy foundation and protect the environment for future generations. I can, however, bring to your attention a few recent examples:

  • Dr. Cynthia Powell was presented with the U.S. Department of Energy Secretary’s Appreciation Award for her successful efforts to transform our laboratory into an eminent center of technical excellence. Dr. Powell is not only a gifted researcher, she is also a very skilled administrator who has served in a leadership capacity for NETL’s in-house research arm for years. Through Dr. Powell’s vision and leadership, NETL created a robust environment for scientific and technical achievement that is benefitting the nation through innovation and technology development.  Dr. Powell helped set NETL on an enduring path toward fulfilling its national mission, and imbued the Laboratory with her passion for collaborative technology discovery, development, and delivery. I’m honored to work with such a gifted colleague and high caliber leader.
  • Dr. Alexandra Hakala was honored recently with a highly prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers—better known as a PECASE award—for her impressive accomplishments and technical leadership. Dr. Hakala’s work is focused on increasing the efficiency of domestic energy production while minimizing the environmental impacts associated with the use of fossil fuels. Dr. Hakala is truly an asset for NETL, both for her talents as a geochemist and her untiring advocacy of sustainable energy systems.
  • Dr. Barbara Kutchko was selected by the Pittsburgh Business Times to receive a Women in Energy Leadership Award. The publication took notice of Dr. Kutchko’s success and the critical nature of her work. Dr. Kutchko’s involvement as a third-party analyst in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was key in ensuring that similar disasters never occur again. Dr. Kutchko is also earning well-deserved praise as a leading expert in foamed cement—a vital material and technology used for environmentally responsible natural gas and oil production.
  • Dr. Ranjani Siriwardane was the principal investigator for NETL’s R&D 100 Award winning technology “HVAC Load Reduction Technology for Commercial Buildings.” Dr. Siriwardane’s expertise in sorbent technology was critical to this technology’s success. NETL partnered with enVerid Systems to create unique multi-functional sorbents that can capture carbon dioxide and volatile organic. When combined with enVerid’s HVAC load reduction system, the technology helps reduce energy use and lower costs by recirculating the already-cooled inside air.
  • Dr. Circe Verba was named Woman of the Year by the Pittsburgh Federal Women’s Program Committee for her outstanding work on analytic collaborations to better detect trace elements. Her research is bridging the gap between geochemistry and civil engineering to better understand geochemical and microstructural changes in reservoir rocks and wellbores. Dr. Verba specializes in electron microscopy and petrography, and her enthusiasm and passion extend beyond her daily contributions at the Lab. Dr. Verba designed her own LEGO set featuring field geology and a petrographic laboratory, including a scanning electron microscope. Dr. Verba is also a valued mentor, who is dedicated to enticing the next generation to consider careers in math and science.

As scientists and researchers, we owe a debt to those innovators who came before us. Our discoveries are built on the discoveries and achievements of women who made history because each grain of new knowledge brings our fields closer to the next breakthrough. I’m proud of the contributions our lab is making today and I’m particularly inspired by our women in science and engineering who are already making history. Diversity and new perspectives are immensely valuable to the successful execution of NETL’s mission. In honor of Women’s History Month, please join me in acknowledging our progress and finding ways to inspire positive, meaningful change.

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.