January 23, 2023
Staff Accomplishment

Good Karma: Sawyer Named Distinguished Gilbreth Speaker

Honor recognizes outstanding young American engineers

Smiling woman with dark hair and glasses

Karma Sawyer

(Photo by Andrea Starr | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Karma Sawyer, director of the Electricity Infrastructure and Buildings Division at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), has been named a Distinguished Gilbreth Speaker by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).

Sawyer will present “Equitable Building Decarbonization through Electrification” at the NAE National Meeting on February 9, 2023, in Irvine, California.

She joins three of her peers from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the University of Maine, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in this honor.

The Gilbreth Lectures were established in 2001 by the Council of the National Academy of Engineering as a means of recognizing outstanding young American engineers and making them more visible to the NAE membership. The lectures are named in honor of Lillian Gilbreth, the first woman elected to the National Academy of Engineering—in 1965—and a pioneer in the field of Human Factors.

Sawyer joins an impressive list of past recipients of the Gilbreth Lectureship from academia, industry, and national laboratories who hail from institutions such as the Massachusetts Institution of Technology, Stanford University, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and ExxonMobil.

“As the energy system is decarbonized, it’s critical that we consider the new thinking, objectives, and approaches that are needed to evaluate how the structure of the energy system, specifically the building sector, might provide more or less equitable distribution of benefits,” said Sawyer. “I’m honored that the NAE has recognized my contributions to building decarbonization and energy equity, and that I have the opportunity to present this work to this prestigious audience.”

Sawyer joined PNNL in 2021 to take the helm of the Electricity Infrastructure and Buildings Division, which boasts well over 400 scientists, engineers, and support staff in six technical groups. She is responsible for shaping and managing a vision and strategy to help meet the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) most important energy efficiency, clean energy, and electricity infrastructure challenges.

Before coming to PNNL, Sawyer was a program manager for the DOE's Building Technologies Office, where she oversaw research aimed at developing cost-effective and flexible ways to make residential and commercial buildings more energy efficient.