ORNL Employees Recognized with DOE Secretary’s Honor Awards

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Feb. 5, 2021 — Thirty-two Oak Ridge National Laboratory employees were named among teams recognized by former U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette with Secretary’s Honor Awards as he completed his term. DOE’s site manager for ORNL, Johnny O. Moore, also is among those honored.

The annual awards recognize the achievements of those who have gone above and beyond in fulfilling DOE’s mission and serving the nation. A new group of awards for 2020 reflect DOE responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

In letters introducing the awards, Brouillette wrote that these researchers and staff members “have surpassed the highest standards of excellence, demonstrated great knowledge and ability, and exhibited an exceptional commitment to service.”

ORNL employees were recognized for their contributions to eight DOE team endeavors:

COVID-19 Insights Partnership Team, which includes ORNL’s Daniel Jacobson and Gina Tourassi. The COVID-19 Insights Partnership was a White House-led initiative to coordinate and share coronavirus-related research, data and expertise across federal departments and agencies. The partnership created a framework for using DOE’s high-performance computing and artificial intelligence resources to conduct

COVID-19 research and analyze data from across the federal government. Members of this team led planning, inter-agency coordination, messaging, public announcement, technical execution and technical analysis of data in support of the partnership.

DOE National Laboratories’ COVID-19 Clinical Testing Teams, which includes ORNL’s Greg Capps, Brian Davison, Mitch Doktycz, Lorie Fox, David Graham, Bart Iddins, Katie Jones, Moe Khaleel, Frank Loeffler, Julie Mitchell, Mircea Podar and John Powell. This team developed an on-site testing capability to keep the workforce safe and allow for safe resumption of work, while in turn helping reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. The ORNL team has contributed to the capacity to process more than 2,000 tests per day at the lab.

High Performance Computing Resource Team, which includes ORNL’s Bronson Messer, Tjerk Straatsma and Gina Tourassi. This team facilitated optimal mobilization of the nation’s supercomputing capabilities to meet the multiple challenges of the pandemic. This team rapidly organized an effective infrastructure for the selection of research projects and their assignment to supercomputing facilities. HPC modeling and simulation, combined with artificial intelligence and other data intensive applications, provided multiple invaluable insights into the virus and its interaction with human biology, with the potential to accelerate both drug discovery and vaccine development.

National Virtual Biotechnology Laboratory Team, which includes ORNL’s Budhu Bhaduri, Michelle Buchanan, Supriya Chinthavali, Lorie Fox, Marti Head, Paul Langan, Lonnie Love and Karren More. This team mobilized the scientific facility and research capabilities of the national laboratories to meet the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Harnessing DOE supercomputers, x-ray light and neutron sources, nanoscience research centers, and advanced genomics and biology facilities, NVBL enabled major advances in characterizing COVID-19 to aid in drug and vaccine development, screening of candidate drugs, expanding epidemiological understanding of disease spread, facilitating the manufacture of vitally needed personal protective and other equipment, and rating and improving testing methods, among many other advancements.

COVID-19 Return to the Workplace Planning and Implementation Team, which includes Moore. This team developed a framework for DOE facilities’ employees to return to work in alignment with administration guidelines and established a data system for gathering and reporting local conditions relevant to DOE facilities.

Seattle Response and Recovery and Cs-137 Joint Investigation Team, which includes ORNL’s Steve Cleveland, Roger Davis and John Scircle. This team responded to a breached radiological source event at the University of Washington’s Harborview Research and Training Facility. The team successfully removed the radioactive source and their investigation identified the underlying cause of the event, which will help prevent similar events in the future.

Spent Fuel Nondestructive Assay Project Team, which includes ORNL’s Brandon Grogan, Jianwei Hu, Germina Ilas, Andy Worrall and Louise Worrall. A grand challenge in the safeguarding of nuclear material is characterizing commercial spent fuel assemblies. This team made key technical and programmatic contributions to this important nuclear safeguard challenge by researching possible techniques, then building, field testing and analyzing results. This project greatly improved previous technical understanding of the viability of various measurement approaches for characterizing properties of light water reactor spent fuel for nuclear safeguards purposes.

Thorium Express Project Team, which includes ORNL’s Hurtis Hodges. This team is responsible for the disposition of the nation’s inventory of uranium-233, stored at ORNL. In team, consisting of the DOE Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management and Isotek Systems, planned, developed and started the U-233 dissolution process and extraction of the rare thorium-229 isotope, one year ahead of schedule. The isotope is used in the production of actinium-225, which is used in cancer treatments.

UT-Battelle manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory for DOE’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit energy.gov/science.

source: ORNL