NREL Energy Analyst Anelia Milbrandt Is a Superhero, Every Day

Milbrandt Will Be Featured in an Upcoming Children’s Book Including Stories of Modern Diverse Women Working in Energy

May 25, 2022 | By Madeline Geocaris | Contact media relations

Top image is a drawing of a storybook character of NREL researcher, Anelia Milbrandt. She sits at her desk smiling with a pencil in hand and laptop open. Bottom image is a photo of NREL researcher Anelia Milbrandt in the laboratory and smiling at the camera with her arms crossed.
Anelia Milbrandt is a bioenergy and waste-to-energy researcher at NREL. Photo from Anelia Milbrandt

From the start of her school years, Anelia Milbrandt enjoyed science. Biology, geography, chemistry—she could not get enough. Eventually, geography won, and by seventh grade, she proclaimed she was going to be a researcher.

Today, Milbrandt is not only a bioenergy and waste-to-energy researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), but she is also an everyday superhero. She will be featured as an energy superhero in the "Everyday Superheroes" children's book series.

"When the author of the new children's book contacted the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Bioenergy Technologies Office for a suggestion of who to feature, they gave my name when there are so many deserving women working in the field," Milbrandt said. "I'm truly honored to be featured and to do this work every day."

The Road to Energy

Milbrandt grew up in Bulgaria and studied geography at the University of Sofia. She joined a cultural exchange program in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to study English, where she met her husband. After the program ended, Milbrandt stayed in Minnesota and became a geographic information specialist at the Minnesota State Legislature.

She and her husband would vacation in Colorado and eventually could no longer ignore that the state had stolen their hearts. Milbrandt got a job at NREL, and they moved to Colorado.

She started on the geospatial data science team and became involved in bioenergy analysis, studying biomass resources and their potential use within a given location. She has done this work for 19 years. "I enjoy resource assessments tremendously, nationally and internationally," she said. "Situations in countries are so different, and it's very rewarding to tap into those nuances." Milbrandt also analyzes waste materials (e.g., food waste, plastics, or paper waste) for power, fuels, and chemicals. When she is not wearing her technical hat, Milbrandt manages projects and programs such as the Waste-to-Energy Technical Assistance for Local Governments Program on behalf of DOE's Bioenergy Technologies Office.

Milbrandt's life at home has been just as rich. She and her husband have two children and love to travel. She is an avid birder and protects the baby robins in her backyard like her own children. She also loves reading—her favorite book recently is "Dune" and of all-time is "Lord of the Rings" or the "Harry Potter" series—and she likes to watch historical fiction, fantasy, and sci-fi movies.

Photo of NREL researcher Anelia Milbrandt, her husband, and two children smiling for a selfie during a hike in Utah. Red rocky landscape is seen in the background.
Milbrandt and her family on a hike in Utah—one of their favorite places on Earth. Photo from Anelia Milbrandt

The Importance of Diversity in Energy

The "Everyday Superheroes" book series features stories and careers of modern diverse women working in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to show young girls the opportunities in this field and advance STEM literacy in children. Each book includes 26 superheroes and their unique STEM careers. Milbrandt will be one of 26 women featured in the upcoming "Everyday Superheroes: Women in Energy Careers."

"Everyone should have an equal footing within STEM and in the energy sector," Milbrandt said. "Fairness is very important, for women, for minorities, for all people. There is so much talent in all the groups that have historically been left out of this industry. It would make us better as a society and a community to have different perspectives."

Milbrandt has continued her career at NREL for nearly two decades for many reasons, but she cites the laboratory's inclusive culture and flexibility as standout factors. She is grateful to have work-life balance so she can raise her kids while continuing to grow in her career. "It is important to me to contribute in a meaningful way to our world and build a better future for my kids," Milbrandt said. "For me, I think I am a better mom because I have my career."

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