NREL Celebrates Staff Awards for FY 2021, FY 2022

Dec. 5, 2023 | Contact media relations

A group of people stand on stage accepting awards.

Several teams were honored at the event, including members of the Pandemic Response Team. Pictured from left, Roxana Witter, Susan Becker, Tricia Druitt, Julie Baker, Chad Blake, and Leigh Ramsey. Photo by Werner Slocum, NREL

Matteo Muratori might have summed it up best at this year’s double dip of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Staff Awards that celebrated individual and team achievements in Fiscal Year 2021 and Fiscal Year 2022, after he received an FY 2022 Outstanding Achievement Award.

“Most of us work at NREL for the impact that this lab has,” said Muratori, who also picked up an FY 2021 Directors Choice Publication award later in the ceremony. “And I’ve seen this impact in government, in industry. We really make a huge impact. We’re really helping change the world, and what enables that impact is the people who work at NREL. So that’s why this award is so special for me because it comes from the people I work with.”

Director Martin Keller co-hosted the ceremony alongside Ian Colrain, MRIGlobal's president and CEO. Colrain introduced Elise DeGeorge, 2021 Staff Awards chair, and Jeff Linger, 2022 Staff Awards chair, acknowledging their key roles in this dual event.

Keller noted that this staff awards event would be different by combining two years of awards and recognition into one.

More than 100 NREL employees were honored in the span of roughly 2.5 hours.

FY 2021 Winners

Traditionally, two awards that represent leadership and excellence stand out separately with each iteration of the employee recognition celebration: the H.M. Hubbard Award and the Van Morris Award.

The H.M. Hubbard Award is given annually to an NRELian making high-level research contributions while showing leadership and initiative in furthering NREL’s reputation. The FY 2021 winner, Paul Denholm, established NREL as a global leader in renewable energy integration. This was done through significant research contributions, mentorship, and inclusive communication.

The Van Morris Award is awarded to a technical or administrative staff member who is a leader in the growth and development of MRI, Battelle, and NREL through major improvements in productivity, capability, or efficiency. The FY 2021 winner, Liz Doris, supported the development of effective policies for energy infrastructure redevelopment. She also engaged diverse external stakeholders to advance clean energy targets.

A diverse set of awardees deserved recognition and celebration for FY 2021. Most of the recipients reacted with shock, joy, and gratitude, as well as deep passion for their work and NREL’s mission.

Julie Baker, deputy laboratory director and chief operating officer, presented a special award to a group of individuals that kept NREL staff safe through a 27-month adventure by managing COVID-19 for the laboratory and triaging programs and procedures at NREL until a vaccine could be developed. The FY 2021 Team Award went to Pandemic Response Team (PRT) members Chad Blake, Roxana Witter, Leigh Ramsey, Susan Becker, Michelena Brew, and Tricia Druitt. This team secured a certification for NREL as a point of distribution for the COVID-19 vaccine, which required proving to government officials that NREL could secure, store, and dispense the precious vaccine. 

"It was a very scary time for all of us, and it was our first pandemic," Ramsey said after the event. "But working with the PRT, specifically the Leadership Team, and eventually the subteam, I was so grateful to have a 'purpose' to focus on.  I couldn’t control much, but I could help communicate to the entire lab just how much NREL cares about our staff and our safety." 

Michelle Reed, research project manager, received a FY 2021 Outstanding Performance Award. Reed showed leadership and vision in project management and operations of a massive portfolio of projects and a large, high-performing research team in NREL’s Bioenergy Science and Technology directorate. 

“I never thought I’d see myself up here. I am so lucky to work with my amazing team. I can’t express how lucky I am to be an NRELian,” Reed said in her speech. “As much as our group has grown over the past four years, one thing that has remained is our trust and support for one another.”

Andrew Colclasure, mechanical engineer researcher, received an FY 2021 Outstanding Performance Award for outstanding initiative, leadership, and technical expertise demonstrated in a new team-lead role for materials development and modeling within the electrochemical energy storage group.

“Thank you for making NREL such a great place to work,” Colclasure said. “I can’t think of a more exciting place to work and more important work than we’re doing. Thank you, everyone, for being so awesome.”

Other NREL staff who received FY 2021 Outstanding Performance awards were Wesley Jones, Josh Novacheck, Jake Holden, Stephanie Hernandez, Emily Cousineau, Erin Nobler, Vanessa Stevens, Greg Perrin, Daniel Steinberg, Guangdong Zhu, Mark Murphy, and Bob Baldwin. Sue Fabio Hinnen won for Outstanding Community and Professional Service.

Innovation and Technology Transfer Awards

Anne Miller, Technology Transfer office director, presented the Innovation and Technology Transfer Awards - Rising Star Awards for early-career research staff who increased and sustained engagement with the technology commercialization function at NREL. Among those honored was Fei Ding, who was one of three FY 2021 winners of this award. Ding joined NREL in 2015 and has submitted three inventions and 10 software records in the field of grid resilience and reliability. She has also submitted dynamic restoration strategies and a hierarchical control framework for management of distributed energy resources.

Other winners of FY 2021 Innovation and Technology Transfer Awards were Kumaraguru Prabakar, Andrey Bernstein, Paul Veers, Eric Lantz, Johney Green, Peter Green, Daniel Laird, Julie K. Lundquist, Patrick Moriarty, Amy Robertson, Megan Day, Paty Romero-Lankao, Jacquelin Cochran, Rachel Saxon, Eric Kozubal, Jason Woods, Ramin Faramarzi, Eric Bonnema, and Steve Decker.

For FY 2021 Directors Choice Publication Awards, the winners were Jacquelin Cochran, Paul Denholm, Meghan Mooney, Daniel Steinberg, Elaine Hale, Garvin Heath, Bryan Palmintier, David Keyser, Devonie Oleson, Brady Cowiestoll, Kelsey Horowitz, Henry Horsey, Anthony Fontanini, Matteo Muratori, Jennie Jorgensen, and Vikram Ravi.

Steve Decker was named the FY 2021 Distinguished Innovator awardee.

FY 2022 Winners

The second half of the ceremony celebrated a diverse set of awardees for FY 2022. Various teams and individuals were recognized for their diligent work in their fields, devotion to NREL, and advancement of our critical mission.

The winner of the FY 2022 H.M. Hubbard Award was Gregg Beckham, senior research fellow, who continues to push the scientific boundaries in the fields of renewable fuels, chemicals and materials, plastics upcycling and redesign, and dedicated mentorship of countless researchers to continue the mission.

“These kinds of awards are given to individuals, but certainly are reflections of amazing teams I get to work with every day,” Beckham said.

For the 2022 Van Morris Award, Martin presented this achievement to Jao Van De Lagemaat, Chemistry and Nanoscience center director. He was recognized for exceptional leadership, mentoring, and strategic development of fundamental and applied science at NREL. This included next-generation photovoltaics, solar fuels, electrochemistry and nanoscience. Van De Lagemaat was humbled by the honor, and his acceptance speech showed his passion and dedication toward NREL.

“I’ve been absolutely honored to work with all of you, and this has been a fantastic time,” Van De Lagemaat said.

The FY 2022 award for Outstanding Team went to Dana Truffer-Moudra, Matt Irinaga, Chan Charoonsophonsak, Rachel Dodd, Conor Dennehy, and Aaron Cooke of NREL's Cold Climate Housing Research Center in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Many exceptional individuals joined together in FY 2022 to continue NREL’s mission. Part of a dedicated healthy-homes group that improves rural, cold-climate housing in partnership with communities, this group prioritizes health and safety among NREL's broader suite of building and energy projects: The FY 2022 Outstanding Team Award was presented to Dana Truffer-Moudra, Matt Irinaga, Chan Charoonsophonsak, Rachel Dodd, Conor Dennehy, and Aaron Cooke.

Janet Reyna, senior research engineer, received an FY 2022 Outstanding Performance Award. During her time at NREL, she has advanced NREL's mission by conducting independent research, forming public-private collaborations, and continuously inspiring staff to excel as researchers, project leaders, and managers.

Other deserving NREL staff also received Outstanding Performance awards for their work in FY 2022. These winners were Peter Ciesielski, Kelsey Kinley Ramirez, Matteo Muratori, Carishma Gokhale-Welch, Elisa Miller-Link, Harrison Dreves, Craig Laurin, Michelle Young, Ryan King, Kiki Carpenter, Kathleen Morton, Libby Arnold, Betsy Stratton, Brittany Enos, Taylor Mankle, and Jennie Jorgenson.

Innovation and Technology Transfer Awards

Adewale Odukomaiya, a researcher in mechanical engineering, was awarded one of three FY 2022 Rising Star awards. His research has focused on innovating heat transfer and energy storage in ways that improve building efficiencies and supporting low-carbon buildings.

Axel Palmstrom and Killian McKenna also earned FY 2022 Rising Star awards. FY 2022 High Impact Publication Award winners were John Geisz, Ryan France, Kevin Schulte, Myles Steiner, Andrew Norman, Harvey Guthrey, Matthew Young, and Tao Song.

FY 2022 Partnership Award winners were Bethany Speer, Camille White, and Travis Lowder. License Award winners in FY 2022 were Christine Singer, Davinia Salvachua, Jeffrey Linger, Lauren Riley, Michael Guarnieri, Mike Himmel, Min Zhang, Yat-Chen Chou, Patrick Saboe, Violeta Sanchez i Nogue, Gregg Beckham, and Nancy Farmer.

Eric Kozubal won the FY 2022 Outstanding Business Collaboration With a Startup Award, while Kai Zhu was recognized as the FY 2022 Distinguished Innovator Award winner.

The Directors Choice Publication Award for FY 2022 went to three winners: Nicholas Rorrer, Kevin Sullivan, and Gregg Beckham, for their work in chemical and biological catalysis for plastics recycling and upcycling.

FY 2021 H.M. Hubbard Award winner Paul Denholm was among the last to speak at the unique ceremony and helped close the event with a big eye toward the future.

“I was thinking about something that someone once told me that I didn’t quite believe, maybe 10 years ago,” Denholm said. “He said, ‘We won. Renewable energy won.’ And so, all we must do is keep winning. Keep running up the score. We won, but we haven’t won enough yet, so just keep going, and keep winning more, and we’ll get there.”

Tags: Awards