HerStory: Alexandra Hakala, Ph.D. Meet Alexandra Hakala, Ph.D.

Alexandra Hakala, Ph.D., research geochemist at National Energy Technology Laboratory

Alexandra Hakala, Ph.D.

Current Position: Research Geochemist, National Energy Technology Laboratory


  • B.A. in Geosciences, Princeton University
  • Ph.D. in Geological Sciences, Ohio State University


  • 2017 – Presidential Early Career Award for Scientist and Engineers
  • 2017 – National Risk Assessment Partnership, R&D Award Winner
  • 2019 – Named “Who’s Next in Pittsburgh?” for Energy and Environment research by The Incline magazine.

Areas of Interest: 

  • Studying how chemical reactions in environmental and geological systems affect how the rocks change over time and how water changes over time.
  • Trying to understand how the location and type of mineral that precipitates potentially could affect gas production.

What inspired you to go into your STEM field?

“As an undergrad, I took a number of courses focused on environmental policy and management, on politics, on natural resources. But it really was one course in particular where I realized how important it was to have real solid, technical, information for decision makers who are making broader sweeping decisions on federal and state and local level technical related issues.

And because of that class, I decided to switch majors from politics into geo-sciences where I really got into questions related to nitrogen flux and management. I was introduced to carbon storage related questions and actually did an internship related to that as an undergrad. And it really inspired... And through that work I became more and more interested in actually performing the science and not just learning about it or applying it in a policy context.”

Past ORISE Participant: “I was an ORISE participant from 2008-2009 in the Postgraduate Research Associate Program at NETL, Pittsburgh, PA.”

Current ORISE Mentor: I am a current ORISE co-mentor for two postdocs and one post-undergraduate associate.