Alumni Spotlight: Omar Abdelaziz

Omar Abdelaziz, Ph.D. (2009)
Group Leader, Senior Research Staff
Building Equipment Research Group (BERG)
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)

Dr. Abdelaziz has been working at ORNL since 2009. In seven years of employment there he has advanced from R&D research associate to Group Leader and Senior Research Staff.  When Dr. Abdelaziz first started working at ORNL his research was mainly focused on CO2  heat pumps and absorption heat pumps.  Now, he is PI on several research projects related to building energy efficient technologies,  energy storage, technology evaluation and prioritization, thermodynamic analysis, thermo-fluid engineering, computational fluid dynamics, engineering optimization, alternative cooling and heating technologies, and lower global warming refrigerants.

Contributing to big policy changes as a DOE Senior Fellow

In 2012, Dr. Abdelaziz relocated to Washington D.C. to support the U.S. Department of Energy Building Technologies Office (BTO) as a Senior Fellow. In this capacity, he was responsible for technology characterization, evaluation, and prioritization, and the development of new research programs by the Emerging Technologies (ET) team. He was able to further the development of the BTO’s ET multi-year program plan. He was also actively engaged in developing office metrics and strategic decisions.  “This opened my eyes to what a Ph.D. with imagination can do,” he says of his time as a Senior Fellow, “by working within the various components of a policy, you can make a big change.”  He says that he also learned from the experience that, “Politics matter.”

Once he returned to ORNL in September 2014, he became the Building Equipment Research Group Leader. He is currently responsible for an experienced group of 17 researchers, a visiting university researcher, 2 Ph.D. students, as well as several laboratory and administrative staff.  With this remarkable team he put to use what he learned in Washington to make strategic changes to BERG’s roadmap, and consequently, research goals.  “Our processes are now more streamlined and we work together towards with goal-oriented approached” he says.

He is an active member in ASHRAE where he helped establish the MTG. Lower GWP Refrigerants and the Task Group on Optimization (now TC1.13).  He is pleased to learn that in June 2016 he will be presented with an ASHRAE Distinguished Service Award, which is very impressive for an engineer this early in his career.

Credits interaction with industry, CEEE faculty, in preparing him for career

“The interaction with industry professionals at CEEE’s consortium meetings was a very good opportunity for me,” Dr. Abdelaziz says.  “The experience raised my confidence.”    Furthermore, he values the insight he gained from working with three strong, and very different, personalities.  “I learned a great deal from Dr. Radermacher, Dr. Hwang, and Dr. Aute,” he explained.  “They all had different ways of doing things.  This made me learn to be adaptable and resilient.”

For students who want to work in a government research lab, Dr. Abdelaziz suggests that they start by approaching their dissertation like a program manager.  This will help you be successful in the future, particularly being able to manage budgets and milestones.

Advises bridging the gap between science and applied research, learn all you can from industry

“I wish I had a chance to publish in science, as well as engineering journals,” Dr. Abdelaziz.   He recommends that students try to bridge the gap between theoretical science and applied science.  “UMD has strong research groups in mechanical engineering,” he explains.  “You’ll gain leverage by working within the science community, and learn how they think,” saying that this will be a valuable outlook for a young R&D engineer.

That said, he also highly endorses the value of students gaining industry experience, even for just a summer.  “You will learn so much in industrial facilities,” Dr. Abdelaziz says, “they hold a significant amount of knowledge that is particular to their respective field. You will be able to learn about the different phases a product goes through before it gets to the market place which can take up to 10 years including reliability, consumer preference, and safety constraints.” 

This growing family loves to travel

Married to Gannat Khowailed, a Senior Analyst at CSRA working on market transformation of energy efficient technologies, they have two lovely children. Daughter Malak is four years old, and baby son Mourad was born in 2015.  The family enjoys traveling – most recently to Fort Lauderdale, Washington, DC, Orlando, and Hawaii – going to parks, and cooking on the barbeque.  Steak and roasted vegetables are a favorite menu.