Photo courtesy of Dennis Schroeder | National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Computational Scientist

Alternate Title(s)Computer Engineer; Computer Scientist; Mathematician
Education & Training Level DescriptionMaster’s degree In Computer Science, Computer Science and Engineering, Computational Biology, Physics, Applied Mathematics, or Engineering.
Experience3–10 years
Job Skills
  • Knowledge of the theoretical foundations of computer science including computer system architecture, system software organization, and simulation and programming
  • Experience with data analysis, experimental design, data integration, and algorithm development
  • Ability to analyze, interpret, and apply computer science procedures in a variety of situations and recommend effective solutions
  • Knowledge of relevant mathematical and statistical sciences.
Job ProfileThe logistics and planning of a large-scale, domestic-based bioenergy production system requires skilled individuals who are able to apply techniques from computer science, informatics, data management, modeling, visualization, applied mathematics, and statistics to explore solutions to complex industry-relevant problems that would otherwise prove challenging through traditional experimentation alone. From sustainable feedstock development and logistics to improving biomass to biofuel conversion efficiency, computational scientists play an important role in the bioenergy sector.
Modeling, simulation, and visualization are useful tools that complement experimentation and help save time and money. For example, computational-based tools can help design high-performance biomass deconstruction enzymes, investigate the properties of plant cell walls to improve enzyme binding affinity, enhance microbial metabolic pathways for the conversion of sugars to fuels and high-value products, predict catalyst performance under realistic reaction conditions, and optimize the performance of reactors used in biomass conversion. They can also provide the data needed to make important management decisions. Sustainability analysis tools like WATER (Water Assessment for Transportation Energy Resources) and LEAF (Landscape Environmental Assessment Framework) help scientists, landowners, and technology developers enhance the environmental benefits of bioenergy.
At the middle levels, computational scientists work as staff specialists to conduct research design, implement, test, and evaluate mathematical, statistical, and computer-simulated models and applications. A master’s degree in computer science or computer engineering is preferred. Significant experience in the field and professional licensure may substitute for additional education. Experience in scientific computing, modeling, and simulation related to energy systems is preferred.