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White House Announces Nominations for Senior Department of Energy Positions

NOV 20, 2013

The White House recently announced its intention to make nominations for three senior Department of Energy positions: the newly established Under Secretary for Science and Energy, Director of the Office of Science, and Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy.

Under Secretary for Science and Energy:

Franklin M. (“Lynn”) Orr, Jr. will be nominated to be the Undersecretary for Science and Energy.

Orr is currently the director of the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University, where he is also a professor of petroleum engineering. Orr has a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Minnesota.

A Stanford website explains that Orr’s research “focuses on understanding the physical mechanisms that control displacement performance in gas injection processes for oil recovery and for storage of greenhouse gases like CO2 in oil and gas reservoirs, deep formations that contain salt water, and coal beds. Orr is working to develop efficient and accurate computational tools for prediction of flow performance at field scale in subsurface heterogeneous rocks.” The profile also states that Orr “served as director of Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Project from 2002 – 2008.”

The position of Under Secretary for Science and Energy was created by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. Earlier this year, Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman testified about the reorganization of the DOE:

“The first major component of the reorganization expands the portfolio of the statutory Under Secretary for Science to include the energy technology portfolio, establishing the Office of the Under Secretary for Science and Energy. Successful innovation for implementing the President’s ‘all of the above’ energy strategy requires the ability to closely integrate basic science, applied research, and technology demonstration. It also should enable clear feedback loops, so barriers to technology development can inform scientific direction and inquiry.

“We also need to accelerate the innovation process -- to rapidly translate scientific discovery into transformative technologies. This is especially important in light of the urgency of addressing climate change and the need rapidly to develop technologies to materially alter the trajectory of greenhouse gas pollution. Establishing the Office of the Under Secretary for Science and Energy is key to enabling this critical transformation, and to implement the recommendation of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and other studies that have pointed to the need to improve integration of the science and applied energy R&D programs of the Department. This office will have direct oversight responsibility for the following offices:”

Office of Science, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Office of Nuclear Energy, Office of Fossil Energy, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, Office of Indian Energy, and Office of Technology Transfer Coordinator.

The former position of Under Secretary for Science was held by Steven Koonin until November 2011.

Director of the DOE Office of Science:

Marc Kastner will be nominated to be the Director of the Office of Science.

Kastner is the Dean of the School of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is a professor of physics. He has also led its Center for Materials Science and Engineering. Kastner has a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Chicago. Kastner is a fellow of the American Physical Society (an AIP Member Society).

A MIT website explains: “Professor Kastner’s group is studying the motion of electrons in nanometer-size semiconductor structures, in which the motion of electrons is highly correlated. In simple metals and semiconductors, like Aluminum and Silicon, each electron moves as though it were independent of all the others. The Coulomb interactions of the other electrons creates an average potential that changes things like the electron’s effective mass, but for the most part, a single-electron picture is adequate.”

This position was held by William Brinkman until this spring.

Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy:

Ellen Williams has been nominated to be the Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy.

Williams is now the Chief Scientist for BP. She has been on a leave of absence from the University of Maryland since 2010 where she is a professor in the Department of Physics and the Institute for Physical Science and Technology. She has a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology.

A BP website states:

“My research background is in the field of nanoscience, where I pioneered the use of a new experimental tool, scanned probe microscopy, to understand how technically useful properties of materials can be tuned based on the way individual atoms and molecules behave. One of the last materials I worked on was the ultimate thin film - graphene - which is only one atom thick and as a result has amazing properties with potential applications in chemistry, coatings and electronics.

“In addition, I’ve been active in technical assessment of large programmes for the US Department of Defence and Department of Energy. At present I’m also engaging on advisory boards for the Electric Power Research Institute and the National Academy of Sciences Policy and Global Affairs and Sustainability programmes.”

The January 2012 issue of Physics Today includes an interview with Williams in which she comments on her position at BP and sustainable energy.

This position was held by Arun Majumdar until June 2012.

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