STEM Professional of the week

Judith C. Gomez, Ph.D.      
National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Dr. Judith Gomez’s education began informally in her Venezuelan home by way of her father - a professor in financial mathematics and applied statistics. As a child, Judith would eavesdrop on her father’s tutoring sessions with older students and would solve problems that stumped her fellow students. Recognizing her interests, her family gave her chemistry kits and other scientific gadgets throughout her childhood. This, coupled with a strong support system and a love of learning and perseverance would shape Judith’s educational process.

When it came time to pursue higher education, Judith decided to attend the highly regarded technical institution in Venezuela, Universidad Simón Bolivar to study mechanical engineering.  According to Judith, that first year studying the subject was difficult enough that she almost switched paths from technical to academic. But, she knew that quitting because it was “too hard” was not what her father taught her and after much hard work, she graduated with a degree in materials engineering – metallurgy. She quickly began her master’s degree in the same subject and simultaneously taught courses, eventually becoming the first student in her department to graduate with honors. 

Shortly after, Judith was promoted to assistant professor at the university. Her work led to several projects in the United States where her work and potential was recognized by a professor who urged her to join him at the Colorado School of Mines to pursue further research. With that opportunity came two major decisions in Judith’s life. She would leave her native country in pursuit of a career in the U.S. and would begin a doctoral program in metallurgical and materials engineering. A degree she would earn four years later from the Colorado School of Mines.

With many milestones achieved, Dr. Gomez began to work in the renewable energy industry, which opened yet another door. Dr. Gomez joined the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Thermal Systems Group in 2010, bringing with her expertise in metallurgical and materials science. Currently, she is a Materials Engineer 4 and the Principal Investigator in a Department of Energy SunShot Initiative for a $3.1 million dollar project. She is also Co-Principal Investigator on another $2.2 million dollar SunShot Initiative.

Dr. Gomez applies her proficiency to the critical renewable energy technology of concentrating solar power. Her research addresses the pressing need for heat transfer fluids that works efficiently. Her work also focuses on allowing CSP plants to store thermal energy and generate more electricity, even when the sun is not shining. Dr. Gomez’s ultimate goal is to make CSP so efficient, low cost, and safe that it will be deployed worldwide, reducing the use of fossil fuels. 

Dedicated to giving back to the community, Dr. Gomez helps aspiring STEM students, many of whom are Hispanic, to acquire education and seize opportunities to establish their own careers in STEM-related fields. 

Dr. Gomez has authored more than 24 publications, holds a U.S. Patent, and has received multiple awards, including the NREL Director’s Award and NREL’s Key Contributor for Research and Development Award. Outside of her duties within NREL, she is also an Adjunct and Research Assistant Professor at the Colorado School of Mines. Great Minds in STEM honored Dr. Gomez with a HENAAC Luminary award for her technical contributions at the 27th Annual conference last October.

View More Professionals of the Week