NEFI Power Women for the Decarbonisation of Industry

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by Oxana Schmidt

Despite numerous efforts to promote and address the issue, the proportion of women in technical professions remains low. On the International Women’s Day, the NEFI Innovation Network will bring successful female technicians to the stage. They are NEFI project managers or are pushing the decarbonisation of industry with their know-how and expertise.

In the week of the International Women’s Day we will present six role models from the NEFI Innovation Network to showcase the natural approach of these women to a technical career. Role models are important to create a desire and interest in a career in technology for the following generations.

So, let’s open the curtain for the NEFI Power Women:


Maedeh Rahnama graduated with a master's degree in mechanical engineering and has been employed as a research project assistant since 2018, and as a PhD candidate since 2019 at the Chair of Energy Network Technology of the Montanuniversität Leoben. Her current work involves investigating opportunities for enhancing energy efficiency, reducing emissions, and promoting climate neutrality within the Austrian industrial subsector. Specifically, her research focuses on energy-intensive industrial subsectors, including iron and steel, chemical and petrochemical industry, pulp and paper, and cement manufacturing. As a member of the NEFI_Lab team, she is collaborating with colleagues to develop the decarbonisation scenarios for the Austrian industry.

We have asked Maedeh Rahnama:

‘Why is the energy transition so important to you?‘

’The energy transition is an important issue for me due to its significant impact on climate, health, energy security, and the economy. Given the urgent need to address climate change, it is critical to transition from fossil fuels to renewable and more sustainable energy sources. This changeover is vital to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting a healthy and prosperous outlook for present and future generations.’

Research Associate, Chair of Energy Network Technology at the Montanuniversität Leoben

Valerie RODIN

Valerie Rodin studied Eco-Energy Engineering at the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, Campus Wels, for her Bachelor's and Master's degrees. In 2017, she completed her Master's degree with a focus on solar energy. For her Bachelor's and Master's theses, she worked in Germany at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) in Freiburg/Breisgau and at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, Australia.

In 2018, she joined the Department of Energy Technology of Energieinstitut at Johannes Kepler University Linz. Valerie Rodin is involved in several NEFI projects, such as ‘Heat Highway’ and ‘Industrial Microgrids’ with the thematic focus on the development of industrial energy cooperation, industrial symbiosis, and waste heat integration. Further, she works as an external PhD student at the Institute for Chemical Technology of Organic Materials (CTO) at JKU Linz on assessment methods of CCU processes in the context of circular economy and industrial symbiosis.

We asked Valerie Rodin:

‘Why is the energy transition so important to you?‘

’When I grew up, I was always told that we do not own things for ourselves but preserve it for the one’s yet to come. Today many adults need to be reminded of their responsibility by the young. From the outside, it's an upside-down world. But there is change, and I see it in my daily work with people from science and industry: They do (want to) change things to the better, for their children, for themselves. So, I am proud to be part of this process.’

Valerie RODIN
Senior Researcher, Energieinstitut an der Johannes Kepler Universität Linz

Verena ALTON

Verena Alton holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Vienna. Currently, she is pursuing a master's degree in Computational Science. During her undergraduate studies, she gained experience in two FemTech internships at the Center for Energy of the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology and has been employed there as a technician since May 2022. In the NEFI_Lab project, she used the results of other NEFI projects to model future scenarios for the decarbonisation of the Austrian industry.

We asked Verena Alton:

‘Why is the energy transition so important to you?‘

’In order to curb the effects of climate change and to enable future generations to have a future worth living in, we must pull out all the stops. The energy turnaround in industry is essential. In my work, I combine various innovative approaches and thus model a guideline for further development. This shows a fast and most efficient way to decarbonisation, that ensures a competitive and resilient Austrian industry.’

Verena ALTON
Technician, AIT Austrian Institute of Technology


Jana Reiter studied theoretical and computer-oriented physics at the University of Graz. From 2017-2021 she completed her doctoral studies at the Institute for Mathematics and Scientific Computing at the University of Graz with a focus on modelling and simulation of biomedical applications using high-performance computing methods. Since 2021 she has been at the AEE - Institute for Sustainable Technologies in the field of industrial systems and focus on digitisation for the decarbonisation of industrial energy systems. She is an internal project manager of the NEFI project DSM_Opt and works on computer-aided load management, energy demand forecasts and system analyses using machine learning methods.

We asked Jana Reiter:

‘Why is the energy transition so important to you?‘

'It was always clear to me that I wanted to do something professionally that makes a positive contribution to society - something that helps to make the world a little better. After I discovered my great passion for science during my physics studies, I was looking for a meaningful application for the knowledge I had acquired. At the AEE INTEC I found my current research topic, the decarbonisation of industry using computer-oriented methods. This is the perfect way to make a meaningful contribution to climate protection and I really enjoy it. I am proud to be a part of the solution and to support the energy transition with my research.'

Research associate
AEE – Institute for Sustainable Technologies


Edith Haslinger is a senior scientist at the AIT Center for Energy specialised in geothermal science. She received her PhD in 2004 from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna at the Institute of Applied Geology in mineralogy, geochemistry and petrology. Research stays at Mid Sweden University Sundsvall (diploma) and at the Natural History Museum London (dissertation) complemented her training. After teaching as an assistant at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, she worked as a research assistant at the Umweltbundesamt Wien GmbH, Department of Groundwater. This was followed by an employment at the Federal Geological Institute, as a project manager in the FA Geochemistry and FA Raw Materials Geology. In 2009 Edith Haslinger joined the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology and has been working as a project manager for geothermal energy. In 2020 she passed an internal hearing to become Senior Scientist.

Since September 2018 till June 2021 Edith Haslinger was a project manager of NEFI Project SANBA – Smart Anergy Quarter Baden, which has opened up innovative nnovative ways for a decentralised energy supply for quarters. Since autumn 2022, she has been project manager of a new NEFI research project CASCADE, which aims to analyse deep and shallow geothermal resources in three areas in Upper Austria - Steyr, Gmunden and St. Martin im Mühlkreis in order to investigate the feasibility of providing heat for the industrial partners involved (Gmundner Molkerei and Brauerei Hofstetten), as well as for the district heating networks of the Austrian municipalities of Steyr and Gmunden.

Edith Haslinger considers geothermal energy as an important building block of heat transition and for the implementation of an integrated energy system. Therefore, she focuses on the further development of high methodological competence in the areas of material characterisation and in experiments on corrosion and thermal simulation for all geothermal issues. As a mother of two daughters aged 7 and 11, it is particularly important for her to foster curiosity and fascination for energy research in children.

We asked Edith Haslinger:

‘Why is the energy transition so important to you?‘

'The energy transition is one of the greatest transformations of our time. I feel it is very exciting that I can contribute to driving the heat transition forward with applied research in the field of geothermal energy.

I am happy to pass on my enthusiasm for energy issues to young people, especially young girls and women.'

Project manager CASCADE,
Senior Scientist
AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH

Veronika Wilk

Veronika Wilk is Senior Research Engineer and Thematic Coordinator at the Center for Energy at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology. She heads the Research Field Efficiency in Industrial Processes and Systems and focuses on how industrial companies with energy-intensive processes can decarbonise their industrial processes. Veronika Wilk studied process engineering at the Vienna University of Technology and completed her dissertation in the field of energy process engineering in 2013.

Since December 2022, she has been project manager of a new NEFI research project "AHEAD" (Advanced Heat Pump Demonstrator). Here, a heat pump for steam generation at 11 bar and 184°C is being demonstrated for the first time at one of Takeda's largest pharmaceutical production locations in Vienna. This will reduce CO₂ emissions by up to 90% and achieve complete CO₂ emission-free operation per year for seven months at this site, equivalent to a saving of 1,900 tonnes of CO₂ per year. This technological showcase project contributes to Austria's leading role in high-temperature heat pump research and is intended to serve as a practical example for the pharmaceutical industry and also for other industries that want to make their processes CO₂-free.

We asked Veronika Wilk:

‘Why is the energy transition so important to you?‘

'The energy transition is important to me because it enables us to live more climate-friendly and in a more sustainable way. I am therefore working on energy efficiency in industry and in particular with heat pumps that turn waste heat into usable process heat. Demonstration projects are especially important to turn theory into practise. This is an exciting part of my work.'

Veronika WILK
Project manager AHEAD,
Senior Research Engineer
AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH