News Release

Release Date: January 19, 2017

NETL Researcher Alexandra Hakala To Receive U.S. Government’s Highest Honor for Early Career Research Scientists


Dr. Alexandra Hakala, a geochemist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), has been named as a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE)—the highest honor the U.S. government can bestow on scientists or engineers in the early stages of their research careers.

The awards were announced by the White House on January 9, 2017.  Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach. The awards are conferred annually by the president and are based on recommendations from participating government agencies.

Dr. Hakala was selected for her impressive accomplishments, innovation, and technical leadership. Her work has focused on increasing the efficiency of domestic energy production while minimizing the environmental impacts associated with the use of fossil fuel.

Dr. Cynthia Powell, executive director of NETL’s Research and Innovation Center said, “Ale is an excellent geochemist, and her research is making a tremendous impact on our understanding of how fossil energy development can impact the environment. She is a tireless advocate for sustainable energy systems, and an inspiration to her colleagues at the laboratory and her friends in the community. It is easy to see why she was selected to receive the PECASE award.”

Dr. Hakala joined NETL in 2008, and has made contributions to research on groundwater chemistry, carbon capture and storage, and shale gas development. Her environmental geochemistry skills have greatly improved understanding of toxic and nontoxic metal mobility in ground water systems, long-term geologic storage of CO2, and safe natural gas development—important to long-term energy resource development.

Dr. Hakala serves as one of the Energy Department’s representatives on the Technical Subcommittee for the Interagency Oil and Gas Task Force. She also serves as a Science Ambassador for the National Academies of Science and Engineering, sharing her enthusiasm and dedication to her profession and encouraging others to pursue careers in the science and technological fields. In addition, Dr. Hakala mentors students and postgraduate researchers through the ORISE research associate program at NETL, and serves as an external committee member for Ph.D. dissertation and M.S. thesis committees.
PECASE Awards have encouraged and accelerated American innovation to grow the economy and tackle scientific challenges. In addition to Dr. Hakala, this year’s award recipients are from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, and Veterans Affairs; the Environmental Protection Agency; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; the National Science Foundation; Smithsonian Institution; and the intelligence community.


  • Shelley Martin, DOE National Energy Technology Laboratory, 304-285-0228,