Sharon Nolen Receives AIChE’s Energy and Sustainability Award

This fall, ChEnected is introducing readers to the recipients of AIChE’s 2020 Institute and Board of Directors’ Awards. These are AIChE’s highest honors. Recipients are nominated by the chemical engineering community and voted on by the members of AIChE’s volunteer-led Awards Committee. These award recognize outstanding achievements and world-class contributions across a spectrum of chemical engineering endeavors. 

The Energy and Sustainability Award

The Energy and Sustainability Award is given to individuals or teams from industry who have accomplished significant energy savings, improved the sustainability of chemical processes, or developed innovative technologies for energy generation or delivery. The award is sponsored by Air Products. 

The recipient of the 2020 Energy and Sustainability Award is Sharon L. Nolen, Program Manager and Fellow, Global Natural Resource Management, at Eastman. 

Nolen is being recognized for leading the implementation of a world-class energy management program recognized by DOE’s Better Plants and EPA’s ENERGY STAR® Programs.

 “I’m grateful to have found this interesting and challenging work that provides the opportunity to work with people who want to make a difference…”  

Nolen's work

Sharon Nolen represents Eastman in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR Industrial Partner Program and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Better Plants Challenge Program. Under her leadership, Eastman received the ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Award for eight consecutive years. During her tenure, Eastman has also received the American Chemistry Council’s Exceptional Merit Energy Efficiency Award and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Achievement in Energy. She also leads Eastman’s Worldwide Energy Team and one of Eastman’s three sub-councils aligned to each of the company’s sustainability pillars.

Nolen serves on the Industrial Advisory Board for the National Alliance of Water Innovation, the Board for the Industrial Energy Technology Conference, and as Peer Reviewer for DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office. She is a frequent speaker at energy conferences and was named the 2019 International Energy Manager of the Year by the Association of Energy Engineers.  

Sharon earned her BS in chemical engineering from Tennessee Technological University and completed the University of Tennessee’s Executive Development Program. She is a registered Professional Engineer in Tennessee and a Certified Energy Manager.

Nolen reflects on her career

In receiving this award, Nolen reflected on “a fulfilling and rewarding career”:

“As a young chemical engineer, I didn’t know where my path would take me. Now, with 20/20 hindsight, it’s easy to see how each step on my journey led me here.  

As a Kodak Scholar, I interned at Eastman in Kingsport, Tennessee, where I met my future husband, Timothy Nolen, also a Kodak Scholar. My first permanent job at the U.S. EPA led to a lifelong interest in the environment and a commitment to making the world a better place. I returned to Eastman, and 31 years later, I’ve held leadership positions in process design, plant operations, and sustainability, with the career-defining moment in 2010 when I was asked to lead the Worldwide Energy Team.  

Being Eastman’s energy manager became my full-time job, and I quickly engaged with EPA’s ENERGY STAR and DOE’s Better Plants programs. I’m grateful to have found this interesting and challenging work that provides the opportunity to work with people who want to make a difference and the ability to have a meaningful impact.”  

The Energy and Sustainability Award is generously sponsored by Air Products. 

In the weeks leading up to the 2020 Virtual AIChE Annual Meeting, we will continue to feature additional 2020 Institute and Board of Directors’ Award recipients, so please stop back again. If you missed earlier award winners, check out the complete series to date.