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NETL Celebrates Women in Engineering
Nora Houlihan with mentor Christina Wildfire

Director’s Corner

by Brian Anderson, Ph.D.

At NETL, our team of researchers are working hard to deliver integrated solutions to enable transformation to a sustainable energy future. Key among our talented experts are NETL’s women engineers who daily embrace the wide-ranging challenges of delivering solutions toward a brighter tomorrow. 

In honor of International Women in Engineering Day, we recognize the critical contributions our women engineers make toward our nation’s prosperity, and the fundamental necessity of diversity and gender equality in our organizations. 

Here’s a snapshot of a few NETL outstanding women in engineering: 

  • NETL Research Scientist Djuna Gulliver is passionate about mentorship and ensuring women are equally represented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). “Women represent 50% of the population. When women are not equally represented in STEM, we are missing opportunities for new thought and creativity; this inhibits innovation in every STEM field,” Gulliver said. “And since innovation leads to more innovation, this can have broad-reaching consequences.” Currently, Gulliver’s research involves analyzing the microbial communities in various systems, such as hydrogen storage reservoirs, carbon storage reservoirs, shale gas reservoirs, acid mine drainage and coalbed methane reservoirs. She is also developing biological technologies to upgrade unused resources (such as carbon dioxide, syngas or unmineable coal) into value-added products.
  • NETL Research Physical Scientist Ruishu Wright sees mentorship as a way of paying it forward to ensure the Lab’s future success. “I find it very rewarding to see the growth of the research associates and how their careers advance from their internship experience” she said. “I also learned a lot through the mentoring experience and am constantly inspired by research associates’ creativity and passion.”  Wright serves as a technical portfolio lead and principal investigator and coordinates R&D efforts of an interdisciplinary team to develop real-time sensors and functional sensitive materials to monitor and mitigate corrosion and gas leaks of natural gas pipelines, enable subsurface geochemical monitoring in support of subsurface hydrogen-natural gas storage, wellbore integrity monitoring of carbon storage wells, and plugging abandoned wells. 
  • NETL Environmental Engineer Natalie Pekney is 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. Pekney recently led a career development panel featuring women from across DOE during a virtual segment of the 2022 GirlCon. Pekney’s research focuses on 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.
  • NETL Research Christina Wildfire is the principal investigator on the low-pressure microwave ammonia synthesis project, which received the 2020 IChemE Global Awards in the category of Research Project for its potential to aid in agriculture, energy production and other applications while also lowering costs and overall energy use. At every stop in her academic and professional career, Wildfire has noted that top-achieving teams that advance discoveries all share an important quality: They embrace diversity.

The innumerable contributions of all NETL’s women in engineering would easily fill a tome, and their impacts are far-reaching with real-world outcomes that are making our planet greener and improving peoples’ lives around the globe. 

I’m extremely proud to work with such a talented cadre of hard-working, high-achieving woman inventors and innovators.