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The 2023 Governor's Awards for High-Impact Research

The 13th annual Awards honored Colorado’s top scientists and engineers for their brilliant, impactful research projects - this year's themes included water and drought resilience in the American Southwest, 5G communications and air travel saftey, and equitable carbon emission measurement across transportation options.

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2023 Awards Recap

On October 11, 2023 the CO-LABS annual Governor's Awards for High Impact Research event was hosted at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. 200 scientists, technologists, academics, business leaders and a range of civic leaders and science champions gathered to celebrate groundbreaking discoveries by scientists in Colorado for their achievements and innovative ideas.  The annual Governor’s Award provides a unique opportunity to recognize our state’s prestigious scientific community, and highlight their central role in worldwide innovation that significantly contributes to Colorado’s economy. (See winner sppotlight videos below.)

The 2023 awards included:

• The “We Are Water” project is this year’s winner of the Pathfinding Partnership Award, which brings together diverse indigenous, scientific and education partners to enhance community resilience in the face of climate impacts like drought and wildfire. The Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado Boulder, funded by the National Science Foundation, collaborated on water exhibits, storytelling sessions and community activities conducted in Navajo, Ute, Spanish and English languages.

• Researchers from the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) received the Technology Transfer Award for swiftly addressing concerns about interference between 5G wireless technology and aircraft radar altimeters. With an impact of $80 billion on 5G wireless spectrum licenses, ITS collaborated with wireless companies, airlines and federal agencies to design suitable altimeter filters - allowing 5G services to operate near airports.

• Dr. K. Shankari received the Outstanding Early Career Scientist Award for her groundbreaking research that empowers underrepresented communities to understand their travel behavior in the support of decarbonization. Shankari created an open-source transportation data tool at National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, CO, which is now used by more than 15 communities worldwide to collect and analyze their own transportation data and shift behaviors from car-centric to people-centric decarbonization.

• Dr. Alan Rudolph received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Recently retired as Vice President of Research at Colorado State University, Rudolph is a former leader of U.S. Biodefense, Biosecurity and Biotechnology programs at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security. Dr. Rudolph is also a serial entrepreneur and founder of Cellphire, a biotechnology company in phase II human clinical trials for freeze-dried platelets that drastically extend the shelf life of existing liquid solutions.


Keynote speaker for the ceremony Dr. Jorge Rocca discussed the incredible research on fusion energy being conducted at Colorado State University and the recently announced $150 million partnership investment by Marvel Fusion to construct one of the most powerful laser facilities in the world on the Fort Collins campus.


"We are all better off because of your tenacious, inspiring efforts to learn more and to solve such vexing problems. Your discoveries transcend the boundaries of Colorado to make our country and the world safer, more resilient, and prosperous. We are indeed fortunate to be home to this incredible concentration of dedicated scientists whose work is having such profound impacts on society."

- Colorado Governor Jared Polis, speaking about the 2022 Awardees

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Platinum Sponsors

Gold Sponsors


Silver Sponsors

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Bronze Sponsors


Supporting Sponsors

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Since 2009, CO-LABS has convened a special committee of academic researchers, technology transfer experts and science and engineering professionals to review nominations from Colorado’s labs. Through a thoughtful and thorough process this group selects projects that have had a significant global, national or state impact resulting from a scientific breakthrough, change in public policy or development of a new technology.


CO-LABS is a non-profit consortium of federal laboratories, research institutions, businesses and economic development organizations that provide financial and in-kind support for programs that promote the retention and expansion of Colorado scientific resources. Through events, economic analyses, strategic communications and networking activities we work to:


• PROMOTE Colorado as a global leader in research and technology

• EDUCATE the public about the labs’ impact and importance of sustained funding for research

• CONNECT the labs, universities and businesses to facilitate partnerships and technology transfer


"CO-LABS brings all these great laboratories together and what we're celebrating tonight is the wonderful science going on in our state. Being in Colorado, we all get along, we all come together, and we love to collaborate, and this differentiates us from many other states."

- Dr. Martin Keller, Director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory​

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