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Dr. Roderick Jackson, a distinguished researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), was honored with the Professional Achievement Award at the annual BEYA STEM Conference in 2022.

This award is given to mid-career professionals who have made advancements in STEM and are recognized as leaders of STEM initiatives. Jackson’s pioneering work in building research and mentorship of young scientists earned him this prestigious award.

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NREL’s Buildings Research Program is revolutionizing energy through building science and integration, expanding scientific knowledge for optimized energy use, generation, and storage in the built environment at multiple scales.

Jackson spent eight years at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), honing his innovative approach and perspective on impactful research.

In 2017, Jackson became NREL’s laboratory program manager for buildings research, setting the strategic agenda for NREL’s buildings portfolio while working closely with senior laboratory management.

Growing up, Jackson worked with his father, who built houses with his eleven brothers, during summers and holidays. His father instilled a strong work ethic, high standards, and an interest in buildings in him.

Jackson pursued a bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, inspired by his passion for science, engineering, and energy. He joined the DOE national laboratories and for twelve years, he has combined his love for energy innovation with his family’s legacy.

In a recent interview with US Black Engineer magazine’s 2023 Environmental and Climate Issue, Jackson described the energy field as evolving towards a cleaner energy future. Renewable energy resources like solar and wind are becoming the lowest-cost electricity generation resources in many places.

He emphasized that buildings play a crucial role in facilitating the most efficient, reliable, and lowest-cost transition to the new energy future.

Jackson believes that a more diverse engineering workforce is essential to address clean energy challenges. However, there needs to be greater awareness about the need for engineers of diverse backgrounds and ethnicities to join the field.

He stressed that all parties involved in the energy sector are responsible for creating greater awareness of career opportunities and the need for diversity in the field.

He believes having as many people as possible at the table is essential to solve the energy challenges and ensure that the solutions are fair for all communities.

Jackson recognizes that social inequities permeate the energy system, and the challenges low-income communities and communities of color face to move towards “low-carbon, safe, reliable, and resilient clean energy systems” are uniquely more difficult to overcome.

He emphasized the need for science, engineering, and innovation to address these challenges.

Jackson encourages young people to consider careers in the energy field, including data science and analysis, machine learning and artificial intelligence, and materials science and engineering. He also volunteers with First Robotics to expose high school students to using science, technology, engineering, and math in projects.

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