Under Secretary for Science and Innovation at the Department of Energy (DOE) Geri Richmond visited Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) last week. Richmond oversees DOE's Office of Science, the nation’s largest federal sponsor of basic research in the physical sciences; DOE’s applied research and development areas of nuclear, fossil, and renewable energy and energy system integrity; and DOE national laboratories like PNNL and their facilities. Richmond was accompanied by Henry Huang, policy advisor for grid modernization.
Laboratory Director Steven Ashby welcomed Richmond and introduced her to PNNL’s lab priorities and science impact.
“We very much appreciate the time Dr. Richmond spent engaging with our talented staff and seeing firsthand the contributions we are making to scientific discovery, technological innovation, and building our nation’s future pipeline of talent,” said Ashby. “It was an honor to host her.”
Richmond was invited to attend PNNL’s Kids Day Expo, occurring simultaneously with her visit. She was introduced to STEM Ambassadors, who share their science and inspire the next generation to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This work supports DOE’s goal of diversifying the future STEM workforce. Richmond visited with the STEM Ambassadors, seeing them in action as they shared their science and displays of their research with curious children ages 8 to 17. As a career-long advocate for underrepresented groups in STEM fields, Richmond is the founding director of a grassroots organization called COACh that has helped over 25,000 women scientists and engineers with career advancement in the United States and in dozens of developing countries around the world.
Richmond also visited several facilities and laboratory spaces to learn how PNNL’s multidisciplinary teams collaborate to address fundamental science questions and challenges. At the Energy Sciences Center, Grid Storage Launchpad, and PNNL’s Electricity Infrastructure Operations Center, she was briefed more about the work happening to advance clean energy technologies and grid modernization, learning about research focused on trying to understand the impacts of decarbonization scenarios on equity and human well-being.
“PNNL researchers are doing incredibly important work on the future of the grid and clean energy, and their efforts are moving DOE and the nation forward,” said Richmond.
The visit wrapped up with a tour of the DOE Office of Science user facility the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, PNNL’s Visualization and Interaction Studio, and a trip 40 ft. underground into the Shallow Underground Laboratory. Richmond heard from researchers and staff about the utilization of plant and microbial systems’ function and the residual soil networks for bioenergy and biomanufacturing applications. She was briefed on several ways PNNL is advancing and leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence to cultivate scientific computing and clean energy technologies. Additionally, PNNL scientists shared about how PNNL grows the world’s purest copper to construct highly sensitive radiation detection instruments for several purposes important to the nation and science discovery.