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  • Dan Powers

Winners Announcement: 2022 Governor's Awards for High Impact Research

Updated: Feb 22, 2023

Twelfth Annual Event Honors Colorado’s Top Scientists and Engineers

for Projects Having a Significant Impact on Society

November 14, 2022: CO-LABS has announced the four winners of the 2022 Governor's Award for High-Impact Research. Returning after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the event gathers scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs, business leaders and government officials to celebrate the exceptional and groundbreaking work of scientists and engineers from Colorado’s federally-funded research labs and institutions.

The winners will be formally recognized and celebrated on Wednesday, December 14 from 4:30 pm -9:00pm at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, 2001 Colorado Boulevard in Denver, Colorado.

Winners’ information and registration details are available at

“Colorado has one of the highest per capita concentrations of federal science, research and engineering facilities in the nation, with renowned scientists whose research has global impact in a range of fields including agriculture, climate and weather, earth science, materials science, natural resource management, renewable energy, space physics and quantum technologies,” said CO-LABS Executive Director Dan Powers. “This prestigious event provides a unique opportunity to connect with leading scientists, lab directors, business leaders and policymakers in an informal and celebratory setting, as we highlight the labs’ role in innovation and their significant contribution to the state economy.”

There are four Awards this year, which recognize brilliant and impactful partnerships, technologies and research across a spectrum of scientific fields:

• The Pathfinding Partnership Award recognizes research that engaged four or more distinct research entities in Colorado (with at least two being federally-funded labs) whose results leveraged the resources and strengths among partnering organizations – and demonstrate the power of collaboration. The winning project includes scientists from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science (CIRES), CU Boulder’s Mechanical Engineering and Geography departments, the NOAA Chemical Sciences Laboratory, the NOAA Global Systems Laboratory, the NOAA National Weather Service, and the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA) – these groups rapidly coordinated risk assessment, outreach and extraordinary real-time data during the devastating Marshall Fire in Louisville and Superior, Colorado. They “helped ordinary people make extraordinary decisions”, and their ongoing research promises to help guide wildfire response and mitigation long into the future.

For more info reach Katy Human, CIRES Communications Director, 303-522-8961

• The Technology Transfer Award recognizes research that resulted in a technological solution with widespread and/or significantly measurable societal utilization, with related impact on a global challenge or issue. The winners include scientists led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s National Weather Service whose space weather research has led to a first-of-a-kind Whole Atmosphere Model and Ionosphere Plasmasphere Electrodynamics Model (WAM-IPE) which allows forecasters to provide better information to the public about potential impacts from solar storms. Collaboration with CIRES, CU Boulder, NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, and NOAA’s Environmental Modeling Center has brought this new model forward to provide crucial insight to various economic sectors—including communications, satellite and airline operations, human space flight, and navigation and surveying to mitigate damages.

For more info reach Maureen O'Leary, NWS Deputy Director of Public Affairs, 202-578-5257

New for 2022 are these two categories:

• The Outstanding Early Career Scientist Award spotlights the discoveries and remarkable work of someone having more recently started on their path of scientific discovery. We look for significant demonstration of initiative, Inspiration, collaboration skills, and other skills and attributes, including the ability to inform and inspire others. The winner is Dr. Rosimar (Rosi) Rios-Berrios, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Dr. Rios-Berrios is recognized internationally as an expert in the topics of mesoscale meteorology, tropical meteorology, and in tropical cyclones. She is engaged in significant leadership, outreach, and mentorship; she has published 17 articles and served as investigator and/or mission scientist on four field campaigns and two major awarded grants. She is frequently interviewed by major news outlets regarding her expertise and she is a founding member of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) “Forging Allies and Connections for Equity in Stem” (FACES) employee resource group and currently serves as a spokesperson for “Science Moms” (and is the only early career science mom).

For more info reach David Hosansky, Media Relations Manager, UCAR/NCAR 303-497-8611

• The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes discoveries with impacts that have developed over more than 15 years, that have revealed profound new understandings of foundational science and/or theories within a given field and the resulting impact on society. The winner is Dr. Michael E. Himmel. As a biofuels researcher at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Dr. Himmel has redefined his field with insights on designing, modifying, and harnessing enzymes to turn such non-food biomass into a thriving sustainable fuels industry. Dr. Himmel has led hundreds of scientific studies in protein biochemistry, recombinant technology, enzyme engineering, microorganism discovery, macromolecules physico-chemistry, and all unit operations in biofuels production. These include comminution, thermal chemical pretreatment, enzymatic hydrolysis, and fermentation. Individually, each brought important insights on how to overcome biomass recalcitrance. Together, they have helped facilitate a phase change in the U.S. bioeconomy—pulling discoveries and technologies from the covers of scientific journals right up to the cusp of commercialization.

For more info reach David Glickson, Media Relations Lead, 303-275-4097

Regarding the Pathfinding Partnerships Award, University of Colorado Boulder Acting Vice Chancellor for Research and Dean of the Institutes Massimo Ruzzene said “These two award-winning teams exemplify the best of the CU Boulder and NOAA collaboration. This high-impact work could not have happened without all contributors: federal, university, and other key experts.”

The Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science (CIRES) was recognized in two of the Awards, prompting this enthusiastic comment: “I am delighted to see CIRES researchers and our federal and university colleagues honored with two awards. Our scientists are extraordinarily collaborative and we work on research problems that can really make a difference in people’s lives,” said Waleed Abdalati, Director of CIRES at CU Boulder. “So it is especially meaningful to me that we’ve earned these honors for both ‘pathfinding partnerships’ and ‘technology transfer.’ Congratulations to our teams!”

Regarding the Outstanding Early Career Scientist Award: "Dr. Rios-Berrios is a shining example of what it means to be a great scientist,” said her nominator Dr. Gretchen Mullendore, Director of the Mesoscale & Microscale Meteorology Lab at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). “She is equally passionate about improving our understanding of weather and climate and about improving the research community to be more inclusive and representative."

Regarding the Lifetime Achievement Award: “Michael Himmel has truly shaped the field of biofuels in a career spanning more than four decades. His groundbreaking, influential research has brought us ever closer to turning plant waste into sustainable fuel on a commercial scale, a significant achievement in the quest to decarbonize the aviation and maritime sectors,” said NREL Laboratory Director Martin Keller. “Michael's discoveries have served as a foundation for further innovation and application well beyond the laboratory. He is truly deserving of this Lifetime Achievement Award and we are incredibly proud to have him as a senior research fellow at NREL.”

Numerous technology, research, economic development and engineering organizations with an interest in having a robust innovation ecosystem in Colorado are sponsoring the Awards; including Presenting Sponsor the Alliance for Sustainable Energy.

Other major supporters include Colorado State University Office of the Vice President for Research, the University of Colorado Boulder Research and Innovation Office, Ball Aerospace, Xcel Energy, WinterWinds Robotics, Fennemore, Manufacturers EDGE, the Colorado School of Mines, and many more.

Additional speakers and special guest announcements to come. Full details of the winning teams and their projects can be seen at

About the Governor’s Awards for High Impact Research:

Started in 2009, the annual Governor's Awards for High-Impact Research celebrates the brilliant ground-breaking discoveries and innovative research from Colorado’s ecosystem of federally-funded laboratories and institutions. That year, following the creation of CO-LABS in 2007, Governor Bill Ritter suggested hosting a celebratory and spotlighting event; the various labs were prompted to submit nominations and a Selection Committee was convened of professional researchers, technologists, academics and economic development experts to identify remarkable research having “high impact” on society.

Each year at this event, CO-LABS spotlights the men and women creating our future through brilliant technological and engineering discoveries in aerospace, energy, agriculture, public health, weather prediction, wildlife ecology, communication, earth science and dozens of other fields of research right here in our Colorado communities. Over the years Colorado Governors Bill Ritter, John Hickenlooper and Jared Polis have presented and/or spoken in support of the winners with these awards, recognizing their impact on our country's leadership in science.

On November 12, 2019 we celebrated brilliant discoveries from the realms of atmospheric science, nanotechnology and laser physics, extreme weather and flood dynamics, global greenhouse gas tracking, and tax-payer funded grants enabling commercialization of Nobel-Prize winning technology to track methane leaks - and all projects were the result of amazingly creative, complex and necessary multi-agency partnerships. The 2019 event gathered 250 scientific, economic development, technology and civic leaders at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science for an evening of inspiring recognition. See video spotlights from 2019.

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