Lifetime Achievement Honorees

The U.S. C3E program annually recognizes women who have dedicated their careers to advancing clean energy and served as role models for women. The C3E Lifetime Achievement Honorees have remarkable accomplishments, international accolades, and are among the most respected people in the field—they also took the time to mentor and encourage the growth of others along the way. Read more about their careers and insights in the U.S. C3E 5th Anniversary Book.


Sarah Kurtz

Research Fellow and Co-Director, National Center for Photovoltaics; Principal Scientist and Reliability Group Manager, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Sarah Kurtz is a Research Fellow with the National Center for Photovoltaics (NCPV) and a Principal Scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). She is a Group Manager for the Photovoltaics (PV) Module Reliability Test and Evaluation Group, leading a team of 20 people who work to quantify and predict the performance of PV in the field. Kurtz is a world-renowned expert in the fields of multijunction PV, concentrator PV, and PV reliability. Throughout her tenure at NREL, Kurtz has played a critical role in developing and maintaining the laboratory’s reputation in PV research and development, helping to illuminate how to grow high-quality cells, how to measure multi-junction cells, and how their performance is affected under various spectra. More recently, she has studied reliability issues of PV modules integrated into larger systems. In addition to her research, Kurtz serves as a mentor for students and post-doctoral fellows. Since 2008, she has been Group Manager for the Reliability and Systems Engineering group at the NCPV. She is currently working to develop international standards with others at NREL and hundreds around the world through PVQAT (the International PV Quality Assurance Task Force) and the International Electrotechnical Commission. She holds six patents and authored or co-authored over 100 refereed publications and over 100 conference proceedings. Kurtz holds a BA in Chemistry and Physics from Manchester College and a PhD in Chemical Physics from Harvard University.


Mary Nichols

Nichols Mary VideoMary Nichols has devoted her entire career in public and nonprofit service to advocating for the environment and public health. She has served as Chair of the California Air Resources Board (ARB) since 2007, and she previously held the post from 1979 to 1983. At ARB, she is responsible for implementing California’s landmark greenhouse gas emissions legislation as well as setting air pollution standards for motor vehicles, fuels, and consumer products.

Nichols also served as California’s Secretary for Natural Resources from 1999 to 2003, and before returning to the ARB she was a Professor of Law and Director of the Institute of the Environment at the University of California, Los Angeles. Prior to the ARB, she served as head of the Office of Air and Radiation at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where she was responsible for many regulatory breakthroughs, including the acid rain trading program and the first air quality standard for fine particles. She also practiced environmental law in Los Angeles, pursuing cases on behalf of environmental and public health organizations to enforce state and federal clean air legislation. She is a dedicated mentor and champion for women in the clean energy field. Nichols graduated from Cornell University and holds a JD from Yale Law School.


Sue Tierney

Managing Principal, Analysis Group

award-delivery-lifetime-sue-tierneySue Tierney is an expert on energy policy and economics, specializing in the electric and gas industries in the U.S. At Analysis Group in Boston, she has consulted to companies, governments, non-profit organizations, and others on energy markets, and economic and environmental regulation and strategy. She previously spent over a dozen years in state and federal government – as Assistant Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Energy; and as cabinet officer for environmental affairs, public utility commissioner, and chair of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority in Massachusetts. She chairs the External Advisory Board of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, chairs the ClimateWorks Foundation Board, and is a director of World Resources Institute, the Alliance to Save Energy, and the Energy Foundation. She is a member of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Energy Project, and the China Sustainable Energy Program’s Policy Advisory Council. She recently co-chaired the NAESB Gas-Electric Harmonization Committee, was a member of the National Academy of Sciences panel on shale gas risk, and was co-lead author of the energy chapter of the National Climate Assessment. She served on the U.S. Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (and its Shale Gas Subcommittee). She has published widely, and frequently speaks at industry conferences and lectures at universities. She earned her Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in regional planning at Cornell University, New York (where her mentor was a female professor), and her B.A. at Scripps College (a women’s college in California). She and her husband, John Tierney, have two grown sons, James and Tom.


Maxine Savitz

Vice-Chair, President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology

2013 C3E Lifetime Achievement Award winner Maxine Savitz

Maxine Savitz’s areas of expertise include energy efficiency R&D and products in the transportation, industry, and buildings sectors; aerospace technology; and integration of R&D between laboratories and business units.

Savitz serves as Vice-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. She is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Conservation, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Savitz received the Outstanding Service Medal from DOE in 1981. Before her DOE service, she was program manager for Research Applied to National Needs at the National Science Foundation. Following her DOE service, Savitz served in executive positions in the private sector, including President of the Lighting Research Institute, Assistant to the Vice President for Engineering at The Garrett Corporation, and General Manager of Allied Signal Ceramic Components. She retired from the position of General Manager for Technology Partnerships at Honeywell.

Savitz served two terms (2006 through 2014) as Vice President of the National Academy of Engineering. She was elected a Fellow to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2013. Savitz was appointed to the National Science Board in 1998 through 2004. She is a member of advisory bodies for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory. Savitz has been a member of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, the Laboratory Operations Board, and advisory committees at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. She serves on the Boards of Directors of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and the Institute for Industrial Productivity. Savitz has previously served on the Boards of Directors of the Electric Power Research Institute, the Draper Laboratory, and the Energy Foundation. In 2013, she was awarded the C3E Lifetime Achievement award.

Savitz received a BA in Chemistry from Bryn Mawr College and a PhD in Organic Chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Mildred Dresselhaus

Institute Professor of Electrical Engineering and Physics, MIT

Watch video: MIT President Rafael Reif Presents Lifetime Achievement Award to Millie DresselhausMildred Dresselhaus was an Institute Professor of Electrical Engineering and Physics at MIT. Professor Dresselhaus served as President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Treasurer of the US National Academy of Sciences, President of the American Physical Society and Chair of the Governing Board of the American Institute of Physics. She was a member of the US National Academy of Engineering, as well as of the Engineering Sciences Section of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society, the IEEE, the Materials Research Society, the Society of Women Engineers, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and American Carbon Society. She received numerous awards, including the US National Medal of Science and 23 honorary doctorates worldwide. She served as the Director of the Office of Science at the US Department of Energy in 2000–2001. She was the co-author of four books on carbon science. Her research interests were in electronic materials, particularly in nanoscience and nanotechnology, with special regard to carbon related materials, novel forms of carbon, including fullerenes, carbon nanotubes, porous carbons, activated carbons and carbon aerogels, as well as other nanostructures, such as bismuth nanowires and the use of nanostructures in low dimensional thermoelectricity. She headed a national Department of Energy Study on “Basic Research Needs for the Hydrogen Economy,” including hydrogen production, storage, and use. She co-chaired a National Academy of Sciences Decadal Study on “Condensed Matter Materials Physics, CMMP2007″ Professor Mildred Dresselhaus was a native of the Bronx, New York City, where she attended the New York City public schools through junior high school, completing her high school education at Hunter College High School in New York City. She began her higher education at Hunter College in New York City and received a Fulbright Fellowship to attend the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge University (1951-52). Professor Dresselhaus received her master’s degree at Radcliffe College (1953) and her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago (1958). Professor Dresselhaus began her MIT career at the Lincoln Laboratory. During that time she switched from research on superconductivity to magneto-optics, and carried out a series of experiments which led to a fundamental understanding of the electronic structure of semi-metals, especially graphite. A leader in promoting opportunities for women in science and engineering, Professor Dresselhaus received a Carnegie Foundation grant in 1973 to encourage women’s study of traditionally male dominated fields, such as physics. In 1973, she was appointed to The Abby Rockefeller Mauze chair, an Institute-wide chair, endowed in support of the scholarship of women in science and engineering. Professor Dresselhaus greatly enjoyed her career in science. On her experience working with MIT students, she said, “I like to be challenged. I welcome the hard questions and having to come up with good explanations on the spot. That’s an experience I really enjoy.”