Argonne National Laboratory

Leah B. Guzowski

By Katherine Obmascik April 1, 2013

Leah Guzowski is an energy policy scientist in Argonne's Decision and Information Sciences division, a multidisciplinary division focused on providing tools to assist decision-makers in making informed choices in times when volumes of information are growing at a rapid pace, becoming increasingly complex. She leads the Building Energy Decision and Technology Research program and the Energy Security team.

What attracted you to work at Argonne?

At Argonne, I have the opportunity to work on some of the most complex and challenging questions facing our nation’s prosperity and scientific advancement. I am very proud of this work. Our access to reliable, affordable, sufficient and sustainable energy is the cornerstone of virtually everything we do, and it’s an ever-changing landscape. As a multipurpose laboratory, we have basic science, applied science and technology transfer. A lot of unexpected, interesting ideas happen in the overlapping margins of those categories.

How have your individual experiences and background influenced your career path?

My career path has not been linear, but I have a lot of interests, so I think that is to be expected. Initially, I couldn’t decide what direction to take my career because I’ve always had strong interests in science, policy and business — usually this represents completely different career trajectories. However, effective and informed energy policies will only become more crucial to our nation’s well-being as our energy choices — and the environmental and financial implications associated with those choices — become more complex. Being a policy scientist at a national laboratory poses a fascinating juxtaposition because we do not “do” policy — what we do is the research, including analytics and tool development, to better inform policy choices and decisions with science.

What are the most exciting things about the work you are doing?

Right now, I’m most excited about our work in energy security. While we have always worked on energy security-related issues, it’s exciting to see our team come together and the momentum building. The work going on approaches the interdependencies of energy security from a complex systems perspective. We unequivocally need a strategy for energy security. While a lot of focus is given to being “energy independent,” given that we live in a global economy, the focus of the discussion should be on becoming more energy secure, and we are working on solutions to guide the nation in this direction.

I also get excited about identifying and designing research projects and building teams to apply our research to real world instances, such as urban systems and achieving efficiency at scale. Chicago is an incredible and vibrant city that has some of the best arts, sports, culture and restaurants in the world, but like all cities, it also faces some very real challenges. If we can apply our research in a way that positively impacts Chicago and our surrounding communities, that’s a tremendous benefit the laboratory offers to the region and to the nation. Anytime I can apply my work to real-world situations, especially in Chicago, I do.

What are the things you like most about your job?

First, my colleagues. They are extraordinarily talented and dedicated, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with them. Second, at the end of the day, I’ve always had more of an entrepreneurial mindset when it comes to thinking about how things work and how we can improve the way things work. At Argonne you get to do that — you have the ability to develop and pursue research — and you also get to do it with world-class facilities and colleagues, while partnering with innovative companies from around the world.

Who do you collaborate with at the laboratory and how does this impact your job?

I work with researchers, both in my division and across divisions, which is really important because the research questions I’m interested in tend to be multidisciplinary, so by nature, it just makes sense to form collaborations with people from other disciplines and outside of the laboratory. The work we are doing with integrated urban systems is a great example. There is tremendous strength in integrating our capabilities in decision and information sciences as well as in mathematics and computing sciences when we look at questions surrounding complex urban systems.

What are your professional values?

My professional values are pretty simple: be straightforward, honest and dependable, and consciously take on challenging situations which might lead to new and better ideas. I also constantly remind myself that communication is complex. There are a lot of ways to be an effective communicator, although I place a high value on listening. Lastly, doing the highest quality work possible is a given.

How would you suggest helping children become more involved with science and engineering?

Argonne does a good job of bringing in students to talk to scientists about the work we do here. What would be really exciting is to find more ways to conceptually integrate ideas related to our work into the day-to-day classroom curriculum. There is a level of energy and urgency that is needed to really inspire — and that can come in the form of events, teachers, family, mentors and leaders. Children are naturally, incredibly curious about the world around them. Ultimately, this is what leads to great scientists and engineers.

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