Two Sandia researchers elected to National Academy of Engineering

April 15, 2024 8:00 am Published by

Tina Nenoff and Babu Chalamala recognized for contributions to engineering

Two Sandia National Laboratories researchers, Tina Nenoff and Babu Chalamala, have been elected as members of the prestigious National Academy of Engineering.

They are among the 114 new members and 21 international members to be inducted as the class of 2024. Their election to the NAE, one of the highest honors in the engineering community, recognizes their significant contributions to engineering theory and practice, as well as their pioneering work in advancing technology.

Tina Nenoff: bridging theory and practice

Nenoff, a Sandia Fellow, has been recognized for her groundbreaking research in nanoporous materials and its application in addressing societal and national security challenges.

Her impressive research record includes more than 190 peer-reviewed articles and four book chapters published, along with 17 U.S. patents awarded. In 2022, she received the Society of Women Engineers’ highest honor, the Achievement Award. She is also a Fellow of both the American Chemical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Her collaboration with Sandia colleagues on the sponge-like properties of crystalline silicotitanates molecular sieves led to the cleansing of an estimated 160 million gallons of radioactive water at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, following the damaging effects to its reactors and buildings by an earthquake-induced tsunami in 2011. More recently, she and her teams have focused on the fundamental to applied research of metal-organic frameworks for both absorption materials and low-power sensors that target caustic and greenhouse gases.

Nenoff was appointed as science adviser to NNSA Administrator and DOE Under Secretary for Nuclear Security Jill Hruby, a former Sandia director and herself an Academy member. This two-year appointment began in March 2023.

Reflecting on her election, Nenoff attributed her success to early parental support, exceptional mentors, and a passion for impactful research.

“I am honored and humbled to have been elected a member of the NAE,” she said.

Babu Chalamala: pioneering grid storage technologies

“It is humbling,” Chalamala said of the honor. “Being elected to the National Academies is a major career milestone, and you feel honored and happy to know that your engineering contributions have significant merit.”

Chalamala, who joined Sandia in 2015, has been instrumental in advancing grid storage technologies, contributing significantly to the modernization of the electricity infrastructure.

“Sandia has been a leading DOE laboratory in grid storage since the early nineties,” Chalamala said. “My election is a reflection of the excellent work our team has done and the significant contributions we have made to support the development and deployment of energy storage technologies.”

Chalamala said efforts at deeper decarbonization and transformation of the grid infrastructure are monumental tasks that will take decades, but he believes the global pace of change is approaching a critical turning point.

“We have developed a lot of expertise at the lab,” he explained. “We are rapidly transforming the electric grid, integrating a range of new technologies, including renewables, along with major grid infrastructure upgrades to support the electrification of transportation and deeper decarbonization of the electric power sector,” he added. “Ensuring that the system is robust, reliable, and has adequate operational reserves requires integrating far greater amounts of energy storage than we currently think.”

Chalamala is also a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and AAAS.

Exceptional engineering

The induction of Nenoff and Chalamala into the NAE honors their work at the forefront of engineering innovation and their roles in fostering research to address complex challenges through engineering excellence.

The formal induction ceremony for the NAE’s 2024 class, including Nenoff and Chalamala, is scheduled for Sept. 29, 2024.

Established in 1964, the National Academy of Engineering serves as a prestigious honor society for engineers and provides guidance to the federal government on engineering-related issues. Its membership comprises individuals who have made significant contributions to engineering research, practice, or education, as well as those who have pioneered new fields of technology.

Read the complete news release.

Photo: Two Sandia National Laboratories researchers, Tina Nenoff and Babu Chalamala, have been elected as members of the prestigious National Academy of Engineering.