Melissa Voss Lapsa is a group leader for the Whole-Building and Community Integration (WBCI) group in the Building Technologies Research and Integration Center (BTRIC) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. She attended St. Mary’s University and Western Illinois University, earning an M.B.A. and B.A. in marketing, with minors in mathematics and computer information systems.
1) What inspired you to work in STEM?
My job makes a difference in two ways. One, as a manager, I get to help others work toward their career goals, which makes a difference in their lives. Second, I work on several project teams that are innovating, analyzing, researching, and deploying new technologies. It makes a difference when successful products reach the hands of consumers and translate into energy and cost savings.
2) What excites you about your work at the Department of Energy?
The best part of my job is working with scientists and our partners outside of ORNL to move technology from the laboratory to the marketplace. It is an exciting opportunity to work with creative teams of people who want to advance technology cost-effectively for energy savings. I was fortunate to receive a year and a half assignment from ORNL to the Netherlands Agency for Energy and the Environment.
Melissa is a group leader for the Whole-Building and Community Integration (WBCI) group in the Building Technologies Research and Integration Center (BTRIC) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The BTRIC user facility is the premier U.S. research facility devoted to the development of technologies that improve the energy efficiency and environmental compatibility of residential and commercial buildings. WBCI works with partners to provide system level data analysis including energy modeling and visualization. Recently, the team developed “autotune” software to make it quicker, easier, and cheaper to model energy use of buildings.
She also leads ORNL’s Sustainable Campus Initiative, whose goal is to integrate energy and resource efficiency, cutting-edge technologies, operational and business processes, and institutional behavior to achieve sustainability at work, home, and in the community. For example, she led ORNL’s portion of a Department of Energy project to install 125 solar-assisted electric vehicle charging stations across Tennessee in partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Electric Power Research Institute, Nissan North America, and the State of Tennessee.
3) How can our country engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM?
Our country can engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM by exposing more grade school, middle school, and high school children to exciting career opportunities in STEM fields. Connecting students in classrooms with professional women in the workplace can have a lasting impact on future career paths. The Internet can be a powerful tool to connect students and professionals by removing travel costs and adding time flexibility for virtual presentations, online academic competitions between schools, and online tours of STEM-related businesses.
4) Do you have tips you'd recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?
Always keep thinking and dreaming about what is possible in your field of interest – especially what may seem impossible now. Never stop being innovative. Also, always keep building the network of people you interact with, learn from, and share ideas with.
5) When you have free time, what are your hobbies?
My hobbies include photography, traveling, and volunteering at the local ice rink where my children play hockey.