Washington, D.C. (Jan. 21, 2021) – The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced new Biden-Harris Administration senior leadership appointees. These new leaders will direct policy at DOE, coordinate across the Administration, and enact President Joe Biden’s vision for bold action on the climate crisis and on safeguarding the Americans most affected by it. These experienced professionals reflect President Biden’s pledge to equip his Administration with a team that represents America’s diversity.
Tarak Shah will serve as Chief of Staff, becoming the first person of color, first Indian-American, and first openly LGBTQ person to serve in that position at DOE.
“These talented and diverse public servants will deliver on President Biden’s goal to tackle the climate crisis and build an equitable clean energy future,” said DOE Chief of Staff Tarak Shah. “Guided by their expertise, breadth of experience, and following the science, these Department of Energy appointees will contribute to creating a clean energy economy that produces millions of good-paying American jobs and safeguards the planet for future generations.”
In addition to the Biden-Harris appointees, David G. Huizenga will serve as Acting Secretary of Energy. He was most recently Associate Principal Deputy Administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration and has been a career employee at DOE since 1987.
Biographies of the appointees are listed below in alphabetical order:
Shalanda H. Baker, Deputy Director for Energy Justice
Shalanda H. Baker was mostly recently a professor of law, public policy, and urban affairs at Northeastern University. She was the co-founder and co-director of the Initiative for Energy Justice, which provides technical law and policy support to communities on the front lines of climate change. Baker served as an Air Force officer prior to her honorable discharge pursuant to the then existing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and became a vocal advocate for repeal of the policy. She earned a B.S. in Political Science from the U.S. Air Force Academy, a J.D. from Northeastern University, and L.L.M. from the University of Wisconsin.
Vanessa Z. Chan, Director, Office of Technology Transitions (Chief Commercialization Officer)
Vanessa Z. Chan comes to the Biden-Harris Administration from the University of Pennsylvania where she was the Brassington Professor of Practice and the Undergraduate Chair of the Materials Science and Engineering Department. She has spent the past 20 years helping large companies commercialize their technologies and revamping the academic curriculum of engineering students to make a greater social impact. Chan earned her Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a B.S. in Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.
Robert Cowin, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Engagement
Robert Cowin was most recently director of government affairs for the Climate & Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Prior to that, Cowin worked for the National Environmental Trust, where he helped organize national campaigns focused on climate change, clean energy, and clean air. He holds a master’s degree in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and a B.A. from Boston College.
Tanya Das, Chief of Staff, Office of Science
Tanya Das was most recently a Professional Staff Member on the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, where she worked on legislation on a range of issues in clean energy and manufacturing policy. She earned her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Christopher Davis, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Energy
Christopher Davis served all eight years of the Obama Administration — first in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs and then in several senior roles at the Department of Energy. Prior to that, he worked for the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce. More recently, Davis worked with Co-Equal, a non-profit organization providing expertise and knowledge to Congress on oversight and legislation.
Ali Douraghy, Chief of Staff, Office of the Under Secretary for Science & Energy
Ali Douraghy was most recently Chief Strategy Officer for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Earth & Environmental Sciences Area. He led the New Voices program at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which brings diverse leader perspectives into science policy. He received his Ph.D. in biomedical physics from the UCLA School of Medicine.
Caroline Grey, White House Liaison
Caroline Grey worked for Biden for President as Expansion States Director, managing distributed engagement in 33 states. Previously, she worked on the presidential campaign of Senator Elizabeth Warren. Grey started her career as an organizer for then-Senator Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and worked on the 2012 Obama re-election campaign. She co-founded Civis Analytics, a data science firm.
Todd Kim, Deputy General Counsel for Litigation and Enforcement
Todd Kim most recently was a partner at Reed Smith LLP, and before that was the first Solicitor General for the District of Columbia, serving in that capacity more than 11 years. Kim graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was an executive editor of the Harvard Law Review, and received his undergraduate degree magna cum laude in biology from Harvard College.
Jennifer Jean Kropke, Director of Energy Jobs
Jennifer Jean Kropke served as the first Director of Workforce and Environmental Engagement for IBEW Local Union 11 and the National Electrical Contractors’ Association-Los Angeles’ Labor Management Cooperation Committee. She focused on creating clean energy, port electrification, and zero emission transportation opportunities for union members. She is a graduate of the UCLA School of Law.
Andrew Light, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs
Andrew Light has worked on international climate and energy policy in and outside of government for the last 15 years. From 2013 to 2016, he served as Senior Adviser and India Counselor to the U.S. Special Envoy on Climate Change, as well as a climate adviser in the Secretary of State’s Office of Policy Planning. Light was an international climate and energy policy volunteer for the Biden campaign and was one of the chief architects of Governor Jay Inslee’s plan for global climate mobilization. He completed his undergraduate work at Mercer University and doctoral work at the University of California, Riverside with a three-year post-doctoral fellowship in environmental risk assessment at the University of Alberta.
David A. Mayorga, Director of Public Affairs
David A. Mayorga most recently served as Director of Communications for the Attorney General for the District of Columbia Karl A. Racine. Previously he was Senior Spokesperson for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and led communications for DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office. Mayorga, an immigrant and openly LGBTQ person, was the first in his immediate family to attend a four-year college. He earned a B.A. from the University of Florida and began his professional career at the U.S. House Committee on Science.
Shara Mohtadi, Chief of Staff, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy
Shara Mohtadi has focused her career advising policymakers and international organizations on mitigating climate change and advancing clean energy policies. She most recently led the America’s Pledge initiative and managed grants focused on the coal to clean energy transition in Asia and Australia at Bloomberg Philanthropies. During the Obama Administration, Mohtadi served as an advisor for the energy and environment portfolio at the White House, in the Office of Management and Budget. She received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Columbia University.
Ali Nouri, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs
Ali Nouri is a molecular biologist and most recently was the President of the Federation of American Scientists, which addresses global health and security risks. Prior to that, he served as a U.S. Senate staffer for a decade and served as an advisor in the office of then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Nouri obtained a B.A. in biology from Reed College and received his Ph.D. from Princeton University.
Tarak Shah, Chief of Staff
Tarak Shah is an energy policy expert who has spent the last decade working on combating climate change. At the Biden-Harris Transition, Shah was the Personnel lead for the Climate and Science team. From 2014-2017, he served as Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary for Science and Energy at DOE. Shah has also worked on political campaigns, including President Obama’s Senate and presidential campaigns. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois and his M.B.A from Cornell University.
Kelly Speakes-Backman, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy
Kelly Speakes-Backman most recently served as the first CEO of the Energy Storage Association, the national trade organization for the energy storage industry. Speakes-Backman has spent more than 20 years working in energy and environmental issues in the public, NGO and private sectors. In 2019, she was honored by The Cleanie Awards as Woman of the Year.
Narayan Subramanian, Legal Advisor, Office of General Counsel
Narayan Subramanian was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Center for Law, Energy, & the Environment at Berkeley Law leading a project tracking regulatory rollbacks, and served as a Fellow at the Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy at Johns Hopkins University and Data for Progress. Subramanian holds a J.D. from Columbia Law School, an M.P.A. from the School of Public & International Affairs at Princeton University, and a B.S. in Earth & Environmental Engineering from Columbia University.
Shuchi Talati, Chief of Staff, Office of Fossil Energy
Shuchi Talati was most recently a Senior Policy Advisor at Carbon180 where she focused on policies to build sustainable and equitable technological carbon removal at scale. She also served as a policy volunteer on the Biden-Harris campaign. Dr. Talati earned a B.S. from Northwestern University, an M.A. from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University.
Jennifer Wilcox, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy
Jennifer Wilcox was most recently the Presidential Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering and Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, and a Senior Fellow at the World Resources Institute. Wilcox’s work examines the nexus of energy and the environment, developing strategies to minimize negative climate impacts associated with society’s dependence on fossil fuels. Wilcox holds a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering and M.A. in Chemistry from the University of Arizona and B.A. in Mathematics from Wellesley College.
Avi Zevin, Deputy General Counsel for Energy Policy
Avi Zevin is an attorney with experience advancing policies that enable the provision of carbon-free, reliable, and cost-effective electricity. He was a senior attorney and Affiliated Scholar at the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law and an attorney at Van Ness Feldman LLP. Zevin holds a J.D., magna cum laude, from New York University School of Law, an M.P.A. from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and a B.A., with high honors, from the University of California, Berkeley.