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Nor Farida Harun
NETL’s Nor Farida Harun Recognized at 2021 Women of Color in STEM Conference

NETL research scientist Nor Farida Harun, Ph.D., received a Special Recognition Award for her work toward developing a smart electrical grid during the Women of Color (WOC) in STEM Conference — Digital Twin Experience (DTX), held in a virtual setting Oct. 7-9.

The theme for WOC DTX 2021, “Reset to Rise: It’s a New Day!”, reflected the global push to overcome the challenges of 2021 and move forward. For more than two decades, awards presented at this leading conference served the dual purpose of showcasing outstanding achievements in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and highlighting the significant barriers for women in the workforce. Recognition is more critical than ever as representation of women among the STEM occupational clusters has not changed markedly since 2016.

Harun is a leading international expert in cyber-physical systems research. According to the National Science Foundation that coined the term in 2008, cyber-physical systems embody a seamless integration of computational algorithms and physical hardware. The effect is to impart “intelligence” to physical systems. For example, a radio- controlled car simply follows the instruction of the controller, but a cyber-physical car would be smart enough to drive from one place to another with only the destination as the input. Cyber-physical systems have provided hope in the medical field through the design of “smart” artificial hearts, and have recently been used in the energy field to accelerate critical technology development.

Harun has published 29 papers in her career and nine in a single year. Dr. Harun’s expertise has been leveraged by NETL in the submission of six proposals in the last year, four of which have now been funded for a total of $5.2 million. As NETL moves into a future with increased penetration of intermittent renewable assets, the real-time modeling methods developed by Harun will be incorporated into a variety of hybrid power assets to create smart systems, and ultimately a smart U.S. national electric grid.

“Nor was selected because she is among an extraordinary group of forward-thinking people in STEM,” said Monica Emerson, national chair of the Women of Color in STEM Conference in a press release. “This year, the nominees represented the most diverse collection of executive professionals we have had the pleasure of evaluating. From managers to vice presidents, they stand out as superior authorities in their respective fields.”

Currently, Harun is mentoring post-docs and graduate students at NETL to share her knowledge, but the demand for the application of cyber-physical systems in the energy sector has escalated far more quickly than the expertise can be shared. This is evidenced by the recent dramatic increase in funding provided for her research group.

“NETL is home to some of the most talented scientists and engineers who are tackling some of the most important issues facing the world today. I’m proud to work among them,” Harun said. “I’m also proud to be able to share my knowledge with so many talented students and am honored to be recognized by this conference. It’s also my hope that this award sheds light on the important work we’re doing and inspires others to get involved in STEM.”

Since 1995, awards presented at the Women of Color in STEM Conference have honored excellence and underscored the under-representation of women at senior levels. For 26 years, employers committed to diversity, equity and inclusion have chosen the conference as the place to share best practices and strategies to attract and keep women in scientific and technical fields.

NETL is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory that drives innovation and delivers technological solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. By leveraging its world-class talent and research facilities, NETL is ensuring affordable, abundant and reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle, enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans.