Skip to main content

Rachel Romero Accepts ASHRAE Distinguished Service Award

Engineering Society Recognizes NREL Engineer for Local, Regional, and National Service

July 8, 2019

Rachel Romero receives a plaque from Sheila Hayter while shaking hands.

Outgoing ASHRAE President Sheila Hayter (left) presents a Distinguished Service Award to Rachel Romero. Photo courtesy of ASHRAE.

Rachel Romero, engineer at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), has been recognized with an ASHRAE Distinguished Service Award at the society’s June 2019 annual conference in Kansas City, Missouri.

ASHRAE is a professional society of heating, refrigerating, and air-conditioning engineers focused on building systems, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, refrigeration, and sustainability. The Distinguished Service Award recognizes members who have served ASHRAE faithfully and with distinction on committees or otherwise given freely of their time and talent on behalf of the society. This year, these awards are being given to two NREL staff: Romero and Ron Judkoff, chief architectural engineer for NREL’s Buildings and Thermal Sciences group.

 Rachel Romero speaks into a microphone in a jacket with a Solar Decathlon logo.

Romero emcees during the Solar Decathlon 2019 Design Challenge Weekend. Photo courtesy of Solar Decathlon

Romero has worked at NREL—and has been a member of ASHRAE—since 2010. “I joined ASHRAE because my manager encouraged me to get the handbooks,” laughs Romero, referring to the four-volume ASHRAE Handbook, considered a must-have for engineers in the buildings industry. Shortly after joining NREL’s Integrated Applications Center, however, she was encouraged by mentor Sheila Hayter to get more involved in ASHRAE’s Rocky Mountain Chapter as a way to develop her professional skills, gain networking opportunities, and get more involved in the energy engineering industry.

Fast-forward nine years: Romero has served on ASHRAE chapter-level, region-level, society-level, and presidential advisory committees. She has organized conferences, written and presented technical papers, and implemented a development academy for upcoming ASHRAE leaders. Meanwhile, Hayter is finishing up a term serving as 2018‒2019 ASHRAE president. Of Romero’s award, Hayter says, “I’m proud. It makes me feel good that she's being recognized as a valuable leader in our field, and that she's established that herself.”

Romero appreciates the Distinguished Service Award, but she also values her experience with ASHRAE for other reasons. “Professional involvement has kept me solid in my technical skills, even while I’m growing project leadership skills [at NREL],” Romero says. For instance, she credits her involvement with an ASHRAE conference technical committee as benefiting her work supporting the DOE Better Buildings Smart Lab Accelerator. “[The committee] does a lot of work to move labs forward. By connecting ASHRAE and my work, I’m able to help better bring those tools to use within the federal government and the program.”

Similarly, Romero credits skills gained at ASHRAE for informing her work as competition manager for the DOE Solar Decathlon Design Challenge. She honed her presentation skills at various training events and learned to communicate with a broad audience.

Romero sees broader benefits of involvement in a professional engineering society. She understands her role as supporting a critical calling to “keep young engineers in the industry and encourage membership in an industry that is aging out—retaining the information that more seasoned professionals bring to the industry and teaching it to new groups.” She also notes that her involvement with an engineering society has given her opportunities for travel, professional coaching, and kept her grounded in real-world engineering issues. Lessons learned? “Always ask,” she says. “The worst thing they can say is no, and you’ll be back in the same place.”