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Researcher Profiles

ORNL's Communications team works with news media seeking information about the laboratory. Media may use the resources listed below or send questions to

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Christa Brelsford's dissertation research marked the first-ever comprehensive analysis of the water-conserving effects of one of the most widely used water conservation programs in the western United States.

Christa Brelsford, a Liane B. Russell Fellow at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, decided as a teenager growing up in rural Alaska to use her empirical mind and math and science skills to do good in the world.

Tyler Gerczak, a materials scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is focused on post-irradiation examination and separate effects testing of current fuels for light water reactors and advanced fuel types that could be used in future nuclear systems. Credit: Carlos Jones/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Ask Tyler Gerczak to find a negative in working at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and his only complaint is the summer weather. It is not as forgiving as the summers in Pulaski, Wisconsin, his hometown.

ORNL scientist Nina Balke uses scanning probe microscopy to explore materials’ nanoscale properties and push boundaries in nanomaterials for energy applications. Credit: Genevieve Martin/Oak Ridge National Laboratory; U.S. Dept. of Energy

When Nina Balke came to the United States on a Feodor Lynen Fellowship for German scholars, her original plan was to complete a year abroad and return home to native opportunities in materials sciences. 

Eva Davidson, a nuclear engineer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is developing modeling and simulation techniques for current and future nuclear reactors.

Like many soon-to-be high school seniors, Eva Davidson thought she knew what she wanted to be and how to get there. A chance encounter at a college fair altered that path—a change in plans she has never regretted.

Raphaël Hermann of Oak Ridge National Laboratory studies magnetic materials and batteries using Mössbauer spectroscopy.

Raphaël Hermann of the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory conducts experiments to better understand materials for energy and information applications.

Alex Johs at ORNL's Spallation Neutron Source

Sometimes solutions to the biggest problems can be found in the smallest details. The work of biochemist Alex Johs at Oak Ridge National Laboratory bears this out, as he focuses on understanding protein structures and molecular interactions to resolve complex global problems like the spread of mercury pollution in waterways and the food supply.

Organic chemist Santa Jansone-Popova designs new chemical architectures to support chemical separations that lay the groundwork for clean water and energy advances.

An organic chemist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Santa Jansone-Popova focuses on the fundamental challenges of chemical separations that translate to world-changing solutions for clean water and sustainable energy.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Chris Petrie assembles a fiber optic sensor, fabricated using additive manufacturing, for measuring dimensional changes. Petrie is developing fiber optic–based sensors that can offer greater insights into how materials, such as fuel cladding, perform during irradiation testing inside ORNL’s High Flux Isotope Reactor. Credit: Carlos Jones/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

With operating licenses for nearly all nuclear power plants set to expire in the 2030s and 40s—a pending loss that would affect a fifth of the country’s electricity supply—U.S. utilities will need to find a way to respond to what has been called the “nuclear cliff.”

ORNL researcher Ben Ollis is optimizing ORNL-developed control systems for a range of projects in which solar energy, energy storage and other locally sited power assets known as microgrids provide reliable, secure electricity to homes and businesses.

While learning the ins and outs of utility operations as a part-time dispatcher during college, Ben Ollis coped with issues from storm-damaged power lines to transformer faults caused by snakes crawling into substation equipment (yes, it’s a real problem).

Candice Halbert

First, she wanted to be a postal worker just like her grandfather. Then, she wanted to be a teacher just like her mother. But ultimately, Candice Halbert chose a path all her own and now she is inspiring the next generation to be scientists—just like her.