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OLCF Staffer Parete-Koon nominated for Tribute to Women Award

Each fall the YWCA in Knoxville, Tennessee, holds its annual Tribute to Women gala to recognize women in the community who have demonstrated the values of the organization: encouraging diversity, advocating for racial justice, and empowering women. This year Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF) User Support Specialist Suzanne Parete-Koon was chosen as a nominee for the YWCA Tribute to Women Award and attended the gala in September.

The event honors women in five categories: (1) arts and education; (2) business and professional leadership; (3) community service and government; (4) health and human services; and (5) technology, research, and innovation. Staff at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) nominated Parete-Koon in the last category. Her nominators included Jayson Hines, project manager for the Computing and Computational Sciences Directorate, and Lynn Kszos, ORNL’s Honors and Awards Program manager.

During the nomination process, Hines and Kszos wrote about Parete-Koon’s most important accomplishments, including her graduate work, fellowships, and role as a mother. She obtained a PhD in computational astrophysics from the University of Tennessee–Knoxville in 2008 before she accepted a postdoctoral position with ORNL’s Scientific Computing Group. Then, from 2008 to 2009 she held a diplomacy fellowship with the US Department of State through the American Institute of Physics, where she served as a representative for the ITER Council and Space Weather.

Although Parete-Koon has numerous professional achievements, Hines said it was not a specific project or accomplishment that pushed him to nominate her. He said her passion for STEM outreach and helping others develop a love for science led to his nomination. Her leadership in ORNL’s Women in Computing networking group, passion for giving tours of the OLCF facility, and development of the supercomputing exhibit for the ORNL Traveling Science Fair demonstrate her willingness to contribute to the community. “She is an excellent example of an ORNL staff member focused on not only being outstanding in her everyday job but also going above and beyond to give back,” Hines said.

Parete-Koon said her perseverance and determination are what have propelled her to success. “I’m an average person in every single way, but I work hard and I know myself and I am resilient,” she said. “If anybody reads about what I’ve done and tries to think of me as some kind of example—because that’s part of what the award is about—they should understand that people aren’t born geniuses. Success comes through hard work and the ability to never give up.”

Parete-Koon says she feels she has a responsibility to continue serving the community through outreach events and community activities. “The nomination for an award like this is an honor, but it’s also a mandate,” she said. “I have a mandate to continue on this path.” She plans to continue her community service efforts and said she will strive to do even more in the future to engage in projects that promote the YWCA’s mission.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is supported by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit

Rachel McDowell

Rachel McDowell is a science writer for the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility.