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On the Job: Kara Podkaminer

Dec 01, 2021   |   by Theresa D'Orsi   |   Dartmouth Engineer

Kara Podkaminer Th’11 | Technology and Policy Analyst

Podkaminer’s holistic approach to developing a clean-energy economy is a natural extension of her research as a PhD candidate at Thayer and a postdoc research fellow at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Biosciences Center. Before joining the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Podkaminer engineered organisms, tested enzyme activity, and analyzed bioreactor systems to develop low-carbon cellulosic biofuels. Her focus now is developing the tools to support a range of clean technologies.

Kara Podkaminer

What does your role entail?

I work at the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. We work with researchers at the national labs to develop and run analyses to inform decision-making—trying to understand how quickly we can transition to a clean-energy system and the challenges we need to overcome to get there—so that we can invest in the right technologies, support decision-makers, and help accelerate deployment. As technologists, we want to invent a technology—but that’s only half of it. Understanding how to deploy it, how to have the supporting infrastructure, and how to overcome the inertia of the status quo is really hard. It keeps us all busy!

What element of your work keeps you engaged?

I love doing work that is impactful. Working for the federal government, trying to help understand the pathways that enable a clean-energy economy and help prevent the worst of climate change keeps me engaged.

What is your office dynamic?

I work in a cross-cutting office. I love the diversity of topics and bringing together experts in each of these areas. A clean-energy economy is inherently more interconnected, so understanding how these technologies work together is essential. I’m excited to work on the transition to electric vehicles as well as low-carbon renewable fuels. We’re going to need all of these to meet our targets.

—Interview by Theresa D’Orsi

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