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Stanford’s Onori wins C3E research award for work on sustainable transportation

Dec 4, 2020
Precourt Institute

By Kate Gibson

Stanford University’s Simona Onori, assistant professor in energy resources engineering, was recognized with the 2020 C3E award in research for her work on sustainable transportation and automotive energy systems.

The U.S. Clean Energy Education & Empowerment Initiative, or C3E, aims to close the gender gap in the clean energy sector by advancing women’s leadership in the field. Their annual awards recognize mid-career women who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and accomplishments in clean energy. Onori and her fellow winners will be honored at the upcoming C3E annual symposium, which will be held virtually on Dec. 8 and 9 and is open to the public. Registration is free and is available on the C3E website.

Headshot of Simona Onori
Simona Onori (Image credit: Steve Castillo)

“This is a really amazing time to work on energy,” said Onori, who called the award a great honor. “New technologies and ways of generating, consuming, managing and storing energy are emerging at a fast pace.”

The electrification of cars and other vehicles is vital to global decarbonization efforts, and Onori has emerged as a leading researcher in the field of automotive energy systems and sustainable mobility. As the director of the Stanford Energy Control lab, Onori conducts  pioneering research on transportation and grid-scale energy storage systems.

“In my lab, my students and I think about ways to sustainably operate and optimize energy storage systems, particularly, lithium-ion batteries,” Onori explained.

She has produced seminal research on strategies for energy management in hybrid electric vehicles. Her work has also expanded to internal combustion engines, where she seeks to boost energy efficiency and lower emissions.

"Simona is a leader in understanding, predicting and optimizing battery performance in vehicles,” said Sally Benson, a professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford who nominated Onori for the award.

“Given the rapid growth of electric vehicles around the world, no one could be better positioned to make major contributions to the future of cleaner transportation systems."

Onori is also  the faculty lead on cars and other vehicles for the Precourt Institute for Energy’s StorageX Initiative, a new major research program at Stanford focused on energy storage.

A strong promoter of STEM and sustainable energy among young people, especially women and girls, Onori has mentored individual students and leads a team of undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral scholars and others in her lab. While at Clemson University, she organized a summer course for female middle and high school students where participants assembled internal combustion engines, tested lithium-ion batteries and examined autonomous cars.

“It is an enormous privilege to be an active player in addressing the technical and engineering challenges associated with the profound transformation that the transportation and the power system sectors are going through,” said Onori, who expressed gratitude to C3E and Benson, who she sees as an inspiration and a role model. 

“I hope this award can help ignite broader collaborations for greater impact,” she said. “I feel energized to find ways to recognize the work of others around me.”

The C3E Initiative is a partnership of the U.S. Department of Energy, Stanford’s Precourt Institute for Energy, the MIT Energy Initiative and the Texas A&M Energy Institute.

This year's winners represent a diverse range of women leading in clean energy. The seven other mid-career award categories are: advocacy, business, education, entrepreneurship, government, international, and law and finance. The entrepreneurship winner,  Kathy Hannun, is a Stanford alumna (BS, civil engineering; MS, computer science). Dandelion Energy, Hannun’s company, is the largest home geothermal company in the United States. C3E also presents a lifetime achievement award annually. This year's winner is Bobi Garrett, who was the deputy laboratory director and chief operating officer of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Stanford professor Inês Azevedo won the research award in 2017 when she was at Carnegie Mellon University. Former staff scientist at Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Sila Kiliccote, won the research award in 2014. Stanford alumni Sonia Aggarwal, Tania Laden and Molly Morse have also won C3E awards over the past two years.