April 1, 2018
Director's Column

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory: Advancing Science and Technology for a More Prosperous, Safe and Secure World


Pacific Northwest National Laboratory microbiologists Sarah Fansler (left) and Vanessa Bailey use instruments at PNNL's Biological Sciences Facility to study microbes that typically live in soils. Drawing upon PNNL's core capability in Biological Systems Science, scientists are gaining a fundamental understanding of biological systems to more effectively use microorganisms for renewable bioenergy and carbon management and to predict how carbon, chemicals and nutrients will move into groundwater.

Photo courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

It's easy to have a vision — to imagine a brighter future and how you might contribute. But it takes hard work, constant focus and informed decisions to achieve it.

At the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, our vision is to deliver science and technology that inspires and enables the world to live prosperously, safely and securely.

We steward capabilities that span a range of disciplines in the physical and life sciences, computing, and engineering.

Every day, our 4,500 scientists, engineers and support professionals are driven by this vision as they work across a variety of programs to advance scientific discovery, improve energy resiliency and enhance national security. For example, they are inventing efficient catalysts, developing sustainable biofuels, synthesizing new materials for energy storage, strengthening cybersecurity and watching for illicit nuclear trafficking.

Of course, achieving our vision will take more than just good research. Like any organization, we have decisions to make, investments to prioritize, partnerships to build and sponsors to please. Our strategy for success is based on four critical elements: science and technology leadership, world-class capabilities, strong partnerships, and a culture of innovation.

Our science and technology leadership is demonstrated in many ways. Our researchers are advancing the frontiers of science through thought leadership and scholarship. We are modernizing the power grid and creating novel energy storage solutions to help improve the resiliency of our energy system. And we are collaborating with others to develop and deploy technologies that will counter nuclear proliferation and strengthen cyber security, both essential to our national security.

We steward capabilities that span a range of disciplines in the physical and life sciences, computing, and engineering. PNNL is especially known for our expertise in chemistry, earth sciences and data analytics.

Our investments in the exceptional people, state-of-the-art equipment and modern laboratories that comprise our 19 core capabilities are investments in our future. The campus transformation underway has included the construction of several new facilities and plans for a new $90 million Energy Sciences Capability project.

Partnerships are imperative to our success. By leveraging the strengths and capabilities of our partners, we can do more together than any of us could alone. We collaborate with other national laboratories, academia and companies across the nation and around the world. We have been keenly focused on expanding partnerships with the region's major research universities.

For example, two new joint institutes have already been formed this year. The first, with the University of Washington, is focused on materials science. The second, with Oregon Health & Science University, focuses on precision medicine. We expect to announce more with Washington State University in the weeks ahead, building on the Distinguished Graduate Research Program we launched last fall.

A culture of innovation is the final ingredient in our recipe for success. We pride ourselves in bringing together experts from different disciplines and across organizations. We encourage creativity and collaboration, and we promote diversity and inclusion within our organization and throughout the community.

We also support science, technology, engineering and mathematics education — or STEM — because we recognize the importance of developing tomorrow's scientists and engineers. Last year, for example, more than 1,000 students and post-graduates spent time at PNNL.

A vision statement may define a successful future state, but the work is never really done. Bill Gates said, "If I'd had some set idea of a finish line, don't you think I would have crossed it years ago?"

At PNNL, we will continue to set our sights on a future where we all can be more prosperous, safe and secure. Along the way, we are grateful and confident that we can count on the support of our community, the confidence of our sponsors, and the dedication and innovation of our employees.

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Published: April 1, 2018