Meet Elaine Hale: Chemical Engineer

October 17, 2008

Elaine Hale, a 2003–04 Selected Professions Fellow, considers herself a jack-of-all-trades, a character trait that works in her favor in her new position at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. As a member of the Commercial Building Research Team, Elaine examines the integration of various technologies. “It is important to look at a building as a system that works together,” she explained.

Before building planners begin thinking about solar, wind, or biomass energy, they must have an efficient building design. For example, if a building has well-designed windows, it requires fewer electric light bulbs. Fewer lights generate less heat, saving money in both light bulbs and air conditioning. Elaine’s team aims to find ways to cut energy use in buildings by 50 percent, with a long-term goal of creating buildings that are 100 percent efficient.

Elaine’s interest in energy issues began to take shape toward the end of her graduate studies in chemical engineering. Her doctoral research used parametric nonlinear programming — a way of tracing specific unknown variables to determine how these unknowns affect the overall results. This type of programming could be used in energy conservation to, for example, project energy savings related the unknown future of fuel prices.

Before receiving her AAUW fellowship, Elaine had been working under a National Science Foundation fellowship that allowed her to begin creating and implementing her own research plan. With the additional funding from AAUW she was able to continue on this path. “It was an honor to receive the AAUW fellowship,” she said.

Elaine’s advice to women interested in pursuing careers in the STEM fields is, “As long as you are good at your work, no one will question why you are there.”

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