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NREL Receives Editors’ Choice Awards for Supercomputer Research

NREL scientists and engineers also receive many industry and community awards

December 23, 2014

Two prestigious scientific magazines have awarded the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) with Editors' Choice awards for the Peregrine high-performance computer and the groundbreaking research it made possible.

The Apollo 8000 system from HP has won one of R&D Magazine's Editors' Choice Awards. This supercomputer created by Hewlett-Packard (HP) and NREL uses warm water to cool its servers. Internally, heat generated by the computer's chips is transferred to water circulating through the machine, and the resulting hot water is used to heat offices and laboratories in NREL's Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF). Each year, the R&D 100 awards recognize the top 100 scientific and technological innovations as chosen by the judges. Only three of those 100 receive the additional honor of an Editors' Choice Award.

Additionally, HPCwire magazine named NREL as co-winner of its Editors' Choice - Top Supercomputing Achievement Award. The award honors NREL and the Texas Advanced Computing Center for the work their high-performance computers - Peregrine and TACC - did in support of the research on converting biomass to fuels. The work was led by NREL Senior Engineer Gregg Beckham.

Beckham's team analyzed the most prevalent enzyme in cocktails used to break down biomass in the bioethanol facilities that are quickly coming online in the U.S. and Europe.

Enzymes are an expensive part of the biofuels conversion process, so engineering improvements in the most prevalent enzyme has the potential for lowering costs significantly. Using simulations made possible by the high-performance computers, Beckham's group predicted that a previously overlooked domain - the linker connecting the binding module and the catalytic domain, "may have significant function," Beckham said. "We followed up these molecular simulations with experimental work to validate the prediction made by the simulations."

"This is significant because while NREL's new facility and HPC system have been recognized recently for their advances in energy efficiency, this HPCwire award recognizes how these HPC resources are being used to advance important areas of science and technology," said Steve Hammond, director of the Computational Science Center at NREL.

NREL's Beckham Receives Two Awards for Cellulose Research

Beckham also won two additional awards: the AIChE Computational Science and Engineering Forum Young Investigator Award and the ACS OpenEye Outstanding Junior Faculty Award. The awards recognize outstanding research in computational molecular science and engineering. Nominees must be within seven years of completion of their highest degree. As the winner for the AIChE award, Beckham recently gave a lecture titled, "How the Walls Come Crumbling Down: Elucidating Mechanisms of Cellulose-Active Enzymes Using Molecular Simulation" at the AIChE 2014 Annual Meeting.

NREL's Energy Systems Integration Facility a Finalist for PMI award

NREL's Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF), a $135 million, 182,500 square foot, design-build project was honored by the Project Management Institute as one of three international finalists for Project Management Institute's Project of the Year Award. This award recognizes projects from any industry in the public and private sectors that have demonstrated superior use of project management techniques.

Due to the innovative performance based design-build acquisition strategy employed by the project team, the project came in under budget and ahead of schedule. ESIF garnered R&D Magazine's prestigious 2014 Laboratory of the Year award, which recognizes excellence in research laboratory, design, planning and construction. The research facility is LEED Platinum certified, world class in energy efficiency, and includes an award winning high performance data center, high-bay labs, and office space. 

NREL's Martha Symko-Davies honored by Women in Energy

The Denver Business Journal, along with Women in Energy - Denver, have named NREL scientist Martha Symko-Davies as one of the Top Women in Energy this year. The award honors Denver's most influential and successful women working in the energy field.

As NREL's Director of Partnerships for Energy Systems Integration, Symko-Davies oversees the agreements that bring utilities and vendors to the ESIF where they can evaluate the impact of distributed energy resources like solar technologies on the grid and find solutions to utilizing the technologies in a safe, reliable and cost-effective manner at scale.

NREL's Huyen Dinh Receives Award for Mentoring

The University of South Carolina has given NREL Senior Scientist Huyen Dinh its Outstanding Mentor award and honored NREL as its Outstanding Co-op Employer for 2013-14. USC undergraduate Charlie Staub said Dinh deserves the honor "because of her dedication to improving my experience as a co-op student." NREL brings in numerous undergraduate science and engineering majors each year to work with veteran scientists and engineers and to conduct their own research.

Huyen, a senior scientist in NREL's Chemical and Materials Science Center, says that reaching out to students feels natural. "When I was a graduate student at the University of Calgary, I had a great mentor for my Ph.D. thesis," she said. "And I've always thought that I should give back by transferring that great experience of a great mentor to other students, so they can go on and mentor other students. But, I can't do it alone. Mentoring is a team effort and I'm grateful to my colleagues for helping me with it."

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the Energy Department by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.

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