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By Kate Cranney David Midgley 11 January 2022 3 min read

“I was always told I ask too many questions, so science was definitely a good fit for me!"

It’s hard to fathom just how broad the work of Dr Jenny Hayward is. Her research spans the extreme ends of chemistry and computing, from quantum chemistry to modelling what Australia’s economy and society could look like in the year 2050.  

Sounds tricky… but not according to her two sons, when they were young. How did they describe her job?

“They once told me – I go to work, do a few clicks on the computer, have lunch and come home,” she laughs.

With expertise in computational chemistry, especially in chemical, biological and economic modelling, Jenny’s kids may have slightly downplayed her skills. In fact, she is one of just a handful of economic modellers in our Energy team.

So how did she get there, and what does she work on now?

Dr Jenny Hayward's particle-ar interest in chemistry

Jenny’s high school teacher inspired her to pursue the chemical sciences. Which led to her completing an Honours degree in quantum chemistry, studying the vibrational states of tri-atomic silicon. Jenny excelled and won the University Medal. She then undertook a PhD on the ice-water interface using molecular dynamics, developing her coding and computer science skills.

After her PhD, Jenny took a three-year postdoctoral fellowship in Heidelberg, Germany. She studied the impact of temperature on the dynamics of proteins in solvents, like methanol and water. As part of the fellowship, she joined the Biocomputing Team, running simulations and experiments both in Heidelberg and Grenoble, France. She put her computer science capabilities and chemistry skills to use, where she was comparing theory and modelling with experiments.

Returning to Australia, she worked as a Strategic Analyst with the Defence Science and Technology Group in Canberra.

“It was a fascinating area to be working in; we had to keep up with the latest research and put that into a defence context," she says.

Then, luckily for us, in 2008 Jenny accepted a job with our Energy Economics Team in Newcastle.

Highlights with Team CSIRO

Jenny’s work has been incredibly varied. She developed the Global and Local Learning Model, to project the cost and uptake of different types of energy technologies (including wind, solar, fossil with carbon capture and storage) into the future. It is now used in the annual GenCost project, which produces projections of the cost of different forms of electricity, storage, hydrogen and transport technologies.

Jenny’s projections are used in Australian energy modelling and have been used in other projects including the Australian National Outlook. In 2018 she determined the costs of technologies along the hydrogen value chain. This work was for our National Hydrogen Roadmap, and for government projects including the National Hydrogen Strategy and the 2020 Low Emissions Technology Statement, as well as the 2023 CSIRO Energy Storage Roadmap.

Emergence of new energy technologies

Jenny is now a Senior Research Scientist in our Energy Systems Program and Chair of the Technical Advisory Group of Mission Innovation. After 15 years here, Jenny reflects that much has changed.

“I’ve really enjoyed seeing how the energy landscape has changed from when I first started at CSIRO. We have so much wind and solar PV in Australia now. Our renewable energy cost projections were once considered radical because we had low-cost renewables… but it turns out we were right," Jenny says.

"It’s been amazing seeing batteries and hydrogen gain so much interest in Australia. And, each year, I enjoy working on our global model for GenCost.

“For me, I’ve picked up the energy knowledge as I've gone along. But having that background in chemistry has really helped me to understand how technologies work, from fuel combustion technologies to hydrogen."

We're fortunate to have such a multi-disciplinary scientist on our team. And we look forward to what Jenny creates next (from a “few clicks on the computer”).

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