May 19, 2021
Staff Accomplishment

Branch Presents Molten Salt Research for Rising Star Talk

Analytical chemist shares passion for STEM, innovation and nuclear fuel


Shirmir Branch is an analytical chemist in PNNL's Radiochemical Processing Laboratory.

(Photo by Andrea Starr | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Shirmir Branch, a chemist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), was selected to present at the Women Chemists Committee symposium, “Pacific Northwest Rising Stars,” as part of the American Chemical Society (ACS) Northwest Regional Meeting conference in mid-May.

The symposium featured eight early career female chemists from the region, including Branch, who spoke about “Spectroelectrochemical applications for molten salt reactor chemistry.”

Branch’s background is in analytical chemistry, and her current focus is on developing cutting-edge technology for remote, real-time monitoring of spent nuclear fuel reprocessing.

Outside of the laboratory, Branch has a passion for encouraging women and girls to get involved in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. She helped spearhead the effort to start an ACS Women Chemists Committee chapter in Richland, Washington, and has also been involved with Expanding Your Horizons program, which focuses on teaching middle school girls about STEM careers.

“It’s important for young women to be aware of, and confident in, their interests in STEM fields, which is why I’ve been active in cultivating opportunities to show them the science is accessible to them,” said Branch.

Working inside PNNL’s Radiochemical Processing Laboratory, Branch’s research shines. As part of her analytical chemistry doctorate from the University of Cincinnati, she led efforts to measure radioactive technetium-99 in nuclear waste stored in underground tanks at the Hanford Site in Washington State. This research focused on parsing out the non-pertechnetate form of technetium, which is challenging to measure under different treatment conditions. More recently, she’s been doing research related to advanced reactors, such as molten salt reactor chemistry.