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Breakthroughs Magazine

Special Report - Celebrating 40 Years of Science & Discovery

Directors leave legacy of PNNL accomplishments

As Pacific Northwest National Laboratory celebrates its 40th anniversary, it also celebrates the milestones of its 10 laboratory directors. Each has contributed to the vision of creating a world-class science and technology organization.

Sherwood Fawcett

Sherwood Fawcett (1965-1967)
In 1965, Battelle—the world's largest independent research and development organization—assumed management of the federal government's Hanford Laboratories in southeastern Washington. As the first director of Pacific Northwest Laboratory, Sherwood Fawcett was instrumental in paving the way for the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory of today. Under Fawcett's leadership, the Laboratory went from a relatively narrow research scope of developing peaceful uses of atomic energy to a multi-purpose organization serving many clients in a variety of research areas.

Fred Albaugh

Fred Albaugh (1967-1970)
The Fast Flux Test Facility at the Hanford site in Richland, Wash., was a major focus during the tenure of Fred Albaugh. FFTF was a new type of nuclear power reactor, using liquid sodium as a coolant. Under PNL's leadership, FFTF became the lead program of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (the predecessor to the Department of Energy). PNL conducted research and development to design the test reactor before the AEC transferred the program and 1,000 staff members to the Westinghouse Hanford Company in 1970 for construction. In 1969, the Acoustic Emission Tester earned PNL its first Industrial Research and Development (IR) 100 Award (now called R&D 100 Awards.) The technique made it possible to detect acoustic emissions from defective welds as they cooled.

Ron Paul

Ron Paul (1971-1972)
Ron Paul was the first director to be faced with rebuilding following a major downsizing of staff at PNL. In addition to the transfer of the FFTF program, more than 400 PNL jobs were lost with the shutdown of all but one Hanford site nuclear reactor. This launched PNL research diversification efforts. PNL's new business approach was to proactively sell research, identify problems that matched existing capabilities at the Laboratory, and pursue areas of growth potential. Laboratory research expanded in biomedicine, energy, environment, national security and human affairs.

Ed Alpen

Ed Alpen (1973-1975)
Ed Alpen was at the helm in 1975 as Battelle celebrated its 10th anniversary of operating PNL and completion of the $8 million life sciences building,the most advanced animal laboratory in the world at that time. PNL also dedicated its new Marine Research Laboratory in Sequim, Wash. The Marine Lab received high honors from Industrial Research and Development magazine in its annual Laboratory of the Year competition. PNL buildings and equipment now totaled more than $50 million. In 1974, PNL earned an IR 100 Award for Optical Digital Recording, a technique for storing information as a track of dots.

Tommy Ambrose

Tommy Ambrose (1975-1979)
Tommy Ambrose led PNL during a time of growth. As research expanded at PNL, the volume of the Laboratory's work for the federal government grew from $20 million in 1965 to $42 million in 1975. PNL expanded its skill as a research organization to include project management. By 1979, major DOE programs at PNL included the Nuclear Waste Vitrification Project, Wind Energy and the Nuclear Waste Environmental Impact Statement. In the private arena, PNL expanded into non-destructive testing, high-speed inspection, and investigating chemicals for carcinogenicity.

Doug Olesen

Doug Olesen (1979-1984)
PNL's focus on privately sponsored research increased from $15 million in 1975 to $25 million by 1984. And business volume under the DOE contract grew from $50 million in 1975 to $192 million by 1984. Solar, biomass and conservation research became major efforts to help meet the nation's power needs. PNL was a lead laboratory for DOE on wind energy, nuclear waste materials characterization and nuclear waste management. Development of the in situ vitrification process (ISV) in 1981 was named an Outstanding Engineering Achievement by the National Society of Professional Engineers. ISV solidified hazardous wastes in glasslike form, safely containing it in the ground.

Bill Wiley

Bill Wiley (1984-1994)
Bill Wiley helped usher in Battelle's 20th anniversary of operating PNL and established a vision for its future as a world-class organization of scientific discovery and engineering innovations. At the core of his vision was the Environmental Molecular Science Laboratory. EMSL was designed as a user facility to bring researchers and university faculty from around the world to work with staff at PNL on problems facing the world. In 1988, a Global Studies Program was established at PNL directed toward resolving the complexities surrounding the global environmental change issue. In addition to his research interests, Wiley was very community-minded and devoted time to local United Way activities.

Bill Madia

Bill Madia (1994-1999)
Bill Madia presided over the dedication of EMSL in 1997, opening the way for world renowned scientists to study details at the molecular level and link molecular models with problems in the real world. The Laboratory's name was changed to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in 1995 to more accurately reflect its national laboratory status. In 1998, Battelle earned its first-ever Outstanding rating from DOE for management of PNNL. An encore performance was made in 1999 with DOE awarding another Outstanding performance.

Lura Powell

Lura Powell (2000-2002)
Lura Powell was the first woman director and first director hired from outside Battelle. Under Powell's leadership, PNNL began establishing itself as a leader in proteomics, which focuses on the role and interactions of proteins within an organism. In 2000, PNNL received its third Outstanding rating in a row from DOE. A user housing facility was completed in 2001, providing accommodations for visiting researchers, faculty and students. Fiscal year 2002 business volume reached $528 million.

Len Peters

Len Peters (2003-present)
In 2003, PNNL earned its sixth Outstanding rating in a row from DOE. The Laboratory's original research focus of developing peaceful uses of atomic energy has expanded to current studies in systems biology, chemical catalysis, computation and climate modeling. Len Peters now is poised to lead PNNL into its next 40 years of research and discovery to address the world's scientific challenges. Preparations include creating a Research Campus of the Future by 2009. This will include both replacement facilities and new research laboratories. PNNL will lose 700,000 square feet of space due to the federal government's accelerated cleanup program for the Hanford site. The new and replacement facilities will help centralize the PNNL campus, enhance capabilities for its national security work, and provide state-of-the-art research facilities for the study of proteomics, environmental clean-up, new energy sources and disease detection and treatment.

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