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NETL Encourages Women in STEM While Hosting Visitors from Womanium Foundation and the Naval Nuclear Laboratory
Womanium Foundation, along with officials of the Naval Nuclear Laboratory.

Representatives of the Womanium Foundation, an organization that encourages girls and women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), visited NETL along with officials of the Naval Nuclear Laboratory’s Pittsburgh-based Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory to discuss potential collaborative efforts.

NETL Director Marianne Walck, Ph.D., welcomed the visitors, which included Prachi Vakharia, co-founder and funder of the Womanium Foundation and Brian McDermott, principal R&D engineer with the Naval Nuclear Laboratory.

The visitors explained work underway involving the foundation and the Naval Nuclear Laboratory before receiving a detailed briefing on NETL’s research in quantum engineering, artificial intelligence/machine learning, advanced sensors, methane detection and remediation and mineral sustainability.

According to Womanium “In the last 100 years, women have aimed for and attained much across the globe, and within the last 40 years, women have entered and graduated in greater numbers from universities and colleges. Still, the percentage of women in STEM+entrepreneurship is marginal, despite all the educational parity reached at the school, college and university levels.”

The organization was formed to “expose, encourage, support, guide, fund and create more females in the STEM+entrepreneurship fields.”

Walck noted that the meeting of the three organizations builds upon potential opportunities that could result from a memorandum of understanding (MOU) she signed in March with the Naval Nuclear Laboratory calling for cooperation on research efforts devoted to advanced sensors, high-performance and quantum computing, decision science, materials science and energy storage. The MOU will lead to NETL and the Naval Nuclear Laboratory exchanging information to identify possible future collaborations for research projects.

“Efforts to encourage women in STEM is a key area of interest for NETL,” she said. “Not only do we look forward to our collaboration with the Naval Nuclear Laboratory, but we will also welcome chances to help Womanium Foundation in their important work.”

Vakharia wrote on her organization’s website that "The next best thing to being the next great woman scientist is to discover the next great women scientists; and support, nurture and fund them!"

NETL’s Yuhua Duan, Ph.D., briefed the visitors on the Laboratory’s quantum computing work. During a detailed tour of NETL facilities, Natalie Pekney, Ph.D., explained the Laboratory’s work on air monitoring; Christina Lopano, Ph.D. talked on the analytical laboratory capabilities; and Ruishu Wright, Ph.D. explained NETL’s work on advanced sensors development.

In addition to Vakharia, Womanium representatives on the NETL visit included Amanda Bowman, computational scientist with specialization in quantum computing algorithms, San Diego State University; Horia Margarit of PepsiCo; Zain Mughal, certified Qiskit developer from Rutgers/Los Alamos National Lab; Ron Schreiner, chief technology officer with ACUMEDX; Erica Sturm, quantum chemist formerly with Brookhaven National Lab; and Anjolie Tuazon, Womanium Quantum Fellow from Howard Community College.

In addition to McDermott, Naval Nuclear visitors included Jesse Holmes, principal nuclear engineer; Kirk Lowe, senior manager for the Advanced Technology Innovation Pipeline (ATIP); Frank Buschman, manager for integrated data and analysis, ATIP; Amy Franciso, senior manager for integrated data and analysis, ATIP; and Anne Roth, external engagement lead, ATIP.

In addition to Walck and the presenters, NETL personnel attending were Kirk Gerdes Ph.D., deputy director for Research & Innovation; Yuhua Duan Ph.D., research physical scientist; Wissam Saidi Ph.D., supervisor, Computational Materials Engineering; Jessica Sinclair Ph.D., business analyst; and Tom Feeley, manager of Research Partnerships and Tech Transfer.

NETL drives innovation and delivers technological solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. By using its world-class talent and research facilities, NETL is ensuring affordable, abundant, and reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle, enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans.