Dr. Virden is Associate Laboratory Director for the Energy and Environment Directorate (EED) at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). He leads a team of 1,000 staff in delivering science and technology solutions for energy and environmental challenges. These challenges include increasing our nation’s energy capacity; reducing dependence on imported oil; and detecting, mitigating and preventing the environmental impacts of legacy waste and energy generation and use. In fiscal year 2012, EED’s research sales to government and industry clients totaled $210 million.
Dr. Virden joined PNNL in 1991 as a researcher, working in non-thermal plasma and Hanford Tank Waste Processing programs. During his two decades at the Laboratory, he has served in many key roles in organizations within PNNL, including technical group manager, program manager, deputy associate laboratory director, director of business operations, and director of energy market sectors. Most recently he was EED's chief science and technology officer, managing the directorate’s science and technology capabilities to ensure they impact important energy and environment challenges. In 2007, the Department of Energy (DOE) tapped him to serve on the Laboratory Working Group, which examined DOE’s science and applied missions.
As part of Dr. Virden's involvement in the strategic direction and growth of PNNL energy programs, he has helped shape national public/private partnerships critical to moving from discovery to deployment. He has gained first-hand knowledge of different organizations and their R&D challenges through special assignments, including a 2009 activity at DOE Headquarters to assist in development of U.S.-China collaborative research priorities, and a two-year assignment in Flint, Mich., as a PNNL employee working with General Motors, Ford and Chrysler and the United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR). In this role, he initiated and developed multiple government/industry advanced technology development projects. Dr. Virden served as co-chair for the DOE 21st Century Truck Partnership National Laboratory Council, which created long-range technology goals for more efficient heavy vehicles, and he participated in the DOE USCAR Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles. He also contributed to the National Research Council 2003 Assessment of the Office of Naval Research’s Marine Corps Science and Technology Program. Dr. Virden’s experiences have provided him with a unique and broad systems view of the overall energy infrastructure, the links between energy and environment, and the challenges of creating a clean energy future.
Dr. Virden holds two U.S. patents and has received R&D 100 and Federal Laboratory Consortium awards for nonthermal plasma technology, a Discover Award with Massachusetts Institute of Technology for fuel reformation technologies, and he contributed to a Financial Times Global Automotive Award for PNNL’s assistance to Delphi’s nonthermal plasma technology for automotive applications. He currently serves on the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy board, the University of Michigan Energy Institute’s external advisory committee, and the Oregon Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies Center (Oregon BEST) board.
Dr. Virden earned a bachelor’s degree and doctorate in Chemical Engineering from the University of Washington.