Two INL employees recognized as Distinguished Under 40 honorees

September 3, 2020

By Tabrie Cook

From the man known for his rhymes and wisdom, Dr. Seuss poses the question, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

Though they are still considered to be early-career professionals, two Idaho National Laboratory employees, James Hanneman and Noël Bakhtian, have consistently performed above and beyond expectation, and are being recognized as honorees of the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce 2018 Distinguished Under 40 Award.

“As a national leader in clean energy and national security research and development, INL needs to ensure a well-trained and educated workforce today and into the future,” said INL Director Mark Peters. “This recognition for two of our early-career standouts is an indication that our efforts are paying off.”

All 10 of the award recipients will be honored at a luncheon at the Hilton Garden Inn on Sept. 25, starting at noon.

James Hanneman

As the lead telecommunications engineer for INL’s Wireless Test Bed, Hanneman’s responsibilities include applied research and design, engineering, deployment, analysis, and testing of tailored systems and one-of-a-kind solutions, which span a vast array of commercial and military wired and wireless communication technologies and networks.

Hanneman has been fortunate to spend his entire 14-year professional career at the lab with the Wireless Test Bed, working alongside a highly dedicated team of talented engineers, technicians and support staff. Throughout his diverse career with the Wireless Test Bed, he has had the opportunity to work on countless high-impact testing and engineering efforts for valued industry and government partners. Over the years, Hanneman has served as a propagation modeling and simulation engineer, radio frequency (RF) engineer, test lead, lead backhaul transport engineer, and project manager.

“James has been nothing short of exceptional while working on my team at INL,” said Paul Titus, Communications & RF Modeling department manager. “Technical excellence; effective communications with colleagues, customers, and INL leadership; and pragmatic thoughts and actions which result in best solution delivery are all hallmarks of James’ performance. It inspires me to work alongside someone with such drive and passion for what they do.”


In the national security realm, Hanneman’s extraordinary achievements are often masked for security purposes; however, the impacts of his work have been far-reaching into the advancement of the nation’s defense and public safety communications systems, and as a result, contributing to saving lives of the nation’s military forces, and improving security and resilience of communication systems for emergency first responders.

Born and raised in South Dakota, he received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Idaho.

Hanneman has been married to his high school sweetheart, Jen, for 17 years, and, they have two children, Maddie, 17, and Gavin, 14. The Hanneman family enjoys spending their free time camping, pursuing the unending quest for catching trout on fly rods, watching movies, loving their pets, cheering on Gavin, who plays for the Idaho Falls Tigers football team, and optimistically hoping that someday the Vikings will finally bring a Super Bowl trophy back to Minnesota.

As a Chicago Bears fan, INL Director Mark Peters doesn’t share this hope. But he does appreciate all that Hanneman brings to the laboratory.

“James possesses a combination of experience and enthusiasm that makes him incredibly valuable. As a University of Idaho graduate, he’s a great example and inspiration to our younger generation,” said Peters. “This award is well-deserved and I look forward to watching James progress for years to come.”

Noël Bakhtian

In May 2017, Noël Bakhtian was named the director of the Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES), a research, education and innovation consortium between Idaho National Laboratory and the four public research universities in Idaho and Wyoming. In this role, Bakhtian directs efforts that bring together collaborative teams of students, scientists, engineers, faculty members and industry to solve grand challenges in energy through collective thinking and innovation.

A self-described lover of all things space, Bakhtian grew up hoping to be an astronaut. But when the U.S. space shuttle program ended in 2011, as she was completing her doctoral research at NASA’s Ames Research Center, the Stanford graduate headed to Capitol Hill to learn about science policy through a fellowship with the U.S. Senate. The fellowship turned into five years in Washington D.C., including career opportunities with the U.S. Department of Energy, and later a senior policy advisor position in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Today, Bakhtian leads a diverse team of talented researchers who are focused on solving regional energy challenges that have national impact. The Center for Advanced Energy Studies performs work in five major focus areas including nuclear energy, energy-water nexus, advanced manufacturing, cybersecurity, and innovative energy systems with crosscutting initiatives in energy policy and data computing and visualization. Together, the CAES-entities represent more than 8,000 national laboratory engineers and university faculty, some 63,000 students, more than 1,100 degrees, and $1.8 billion dollars in annual research funding. When combined, these capabilities act as a force multiplier allowing CAES-entities to pursue major proposals, develop joint degrees and certificates, and establish user facilities for universities and industry.

“To be leading an organization as diverse and important as CAES is a tremendous responsibility and accomplishment,” said Peters. “Noël is talented, dedicated, and determined, and I’m confident she will continue to grow as a senior leader in the national laboratory system.”




Born in Tennessee and raised in Florida, she received her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and physics from Duke University, holds master’s degrees from Stanford University and the University of Cambridge, where she was a Churchill Scholar, and earned her engineering doctorate at Stanford University’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

In her free time, Bakhtian enjoys traveling, gardening, and learning how to golf. A warm-weather fanatic, she is diligently learning to navigate Idaho’s winter roads. When that doesn’t work, she’s become an impressive connoisseur of Netflix’s offerings.

Distinguished Under 40 is an annual awards program exclusive to the eastern Idaho area that honors 10 young professionals who have gone above and beyond to accomplish great things in their careers, community, and education. To be considered for the award, young professionals are nominated by co-workers, managers, and business associates. Winners are selected by a panel of past presidents of the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce.

The 2018 honorees are:

Jeff Sollis, Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center

Travis Zmak, Teton Toyota

Mark Baker, Bingham Memorial Hospital

Noël Bakhtian, Idaho National Laboratory

Nate Sunderland,

Daniel Quintela, Northwest Cosmetic Labs

James Hanneman, Idaho National Laboratory

Ryan Leland, Bank of Idaho

Jennifer Veldkamp, Northwest Cosmetic Labs

Monica Bitrick, YMCA

To attend the luncheon, contact Lois Mackes at 208-523-1010 or email [email protected].




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About Idaho National Laboratory

Battelle Energy Alliance manages INL for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. INL is the nation’s center for nuclear energy research and development, celebrating 75 years of scientific innovations in 2024. The laboratory performs research in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and the environment. 

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Posted September 3, 2020

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