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NETL Researcher Leads Career Development Panel at GirlCon 2022
Natalie Pekney, a Caucasian woman with green eyes and long, curly brown hair.

NETL’s Natalie Pekney led a career development panel featuring women from across the U.S. Department of Energy during a virtual segment of the 2022 GirlCon, held Friday, June 17.

Pekney joined Kate Klise and Christine Downs from Sandia National Laboratory, Charu Varadharajan from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Chris Morency from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as they discussed their day-to-day routines and offered words of wisdom for working for the federal government.

“This was a valuable, candid discussion where each of us was able to share our unique perspectives working at the different national labs,” Pekney said. “We hope we opened up the lines of communication and provided some inspiration for the next generation of scientists and engineers to consider government service.”

Pekney is an environmental engineer at NETL and a renowned expert in air quality monitoring related to the oil and gas industry and a leader in developing methodologies to quantify fugitive emissions from natural gas infrastructure and orphaned wells. She earned her doctorate in civil and environmental engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 2004, and soon after began her career with the U.S. Department of Energy as an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education fellow at NETL.

Her first projects at the Lab focused on researching the impact of power plants on air quality, with particular attention paid to mercury emissions from fly ash. In 2008, she was hired as a research engineer at NETL, a transition which coincided with the shale gas boom in western Pennsylvania. At that point, her focus shifted to determining the impact on air quality and greenhouse gas emissions from horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing of shale for natural gas production. She also acts as the technical portfolio lead for an NETL program designed to evaluate and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas midstream infrastructure.

GirlCon is an international tech conference (for students, by students), aiming to empower the next generation of leaders. The annual event features breakout, professional development and keynote sessions from numerous companies and backgrounds, giving attendees the opportunity to learn and make connections.

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.