Note: This story was last updated at 3:05 p.m.
Thom Mason, the director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory since 2007, is leaving the lab for a job at Battelle.
Mason announced the move in an email to employees on Friday morning.
He will become senior vice president for laboratory operations at Battelle in Columbus, Ohio. Battelle, in partnership with the University of Tennessee, has managed and operated ORNL for the U.S. Department of Energy since April 2000.
“I’m privileged to take on the challenges that lie ahead,” Mason said.
He starts at his new job July 1, his 10th anniversary as ORNL director. ORNL is the nation’s largest science and energy laboratory.
“I have a few months of transition before I really say good-bye, but I notified the UT-Battelle board late yesterday and wanted to share these initial thoughts directly,” Mason said.
Mason, a physicist, has been in Oak Ridge almost 19 years.
“It has been an honor and a pleasure to work with all of you at ORNL,” he said in the email. “I take great pride in the accomplishments of the lab for our community and nation. I am especially grateful as I look back on the many successes our team has accomplished.”
Mason is an experimental condensed matter physicist by training, and he came to ORNL in 1998 to work on the Spallation Neutron Source, or SNS, a facility that was under construction to serve scientists worldwide. He soon assumed responsibility for completion of the $1.4 billion project.
SNS and its sister neutron facility, the High Flux Isotope Reactor, solidified ORNL’s role as the leading source of neutrons for scientific research in the U.S., and they recently welcomed their 20,000th scientific user, a press release said.
“Thom has been an exemplary scientific leader, and we’re fortunate that he will continue to be engaged with Oak Ridge National Laboratory as he uses his experience and expertise to benefit DOE, Battelle, and other labs where Battelle has a management role,” said Joe DiPietro, chairman of the UT-Battelle board of governors. Battelle has a substantial management role at six DOE labs and one lab for the Department of Homeland Security.
Mason said the UT-Battelle Board of Governors will conduct an open, deliberate search for his replacement.
“In the meantime, ORNL will not slow its ongoing efforts to solve big problems and support national missions in energy, scientific discovery, and national security,” he said.
The press release said Mason’s decade as lab director was marked by a number of other milestones, including:
- Two supercomputers ranked as the most powerful in the world, bringing the power of high performance computing to a wide range of science and engineering problems;
- Leadership of ambitious, multi-institutional research organizations such as the BioEnergy Science Center and Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors;
- Establishment of ORNL as a center for advanced manufacturing, and creation of game-changing technologies in support of clean energy and industry;
- Continued revitalization of laboratory infrastructure;
- Support of national priorities in nuclear science and energy, in fission, fusion, isotope production, and nuclear security.
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, called Mason a transformational leader at ORNL.
“During his tenure, Thom has led Oak Ridge to new heights in supercomputing, science, nuclear energy, and advanced manufacturing,” Alexander said. “National laboratories are critical to our nation’s competitiveness and because of his leadership Oak Ridge will continue to play a vital role in our nation’s future. I congratulate Thom on his new role at Battelle.”
Mason won praise from Alexander for his work a few years ago leading an independent review of the Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex. That review, labeled the Red Team review for UPF, recommended several steps to get the $6.5 billion UPF project on schedule and on budget, including use of a modular approach, or several smaller buildings rather than one large building. Alexander has recommended that Red Team reviews, like the one used for the UPF, be used for some other government projects.
Tennessee Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally, an Oak Ridge Republican, also congratulated Mason.
“Thom’s tenure at ORNL has been exemplary,” McNally said. “His work has advanced ORNL’s overall mission and expanded its reputation at the premier laboratory in the nation. He is an active and valued member of our community in Oak Ridge. He will be greatly missed.”
At Battelle, Mason will work with Executive Vice President of Global Laboratory Operations Ron Townsend by participating in governance at each Battelle-managed lab, engaging key sponsors, contributing to capture management, and leading strategic planning for lab operations that integrate with Battelle’s overall strategic plan. Townsend is a former president of Oak Ridge Associated Universities, or ORAU.
Another former ORNL director is also a member of Battelle’s senior management team. Jeffrey Wadsworth, who was ORNL director for four years before Mason, is now president and chief executive of Battelle.
ORNL has formed a search committee to seek Mason’s replacement. More information will be available at the ORNL Director Search website at http://public.ornl.gov/ornlsearch.
See the Battelle senior management team, which includes Townsend and Wadsworth, here.
UT-Battelle, a partnership of the University of Tennessee and Battelle Memorial Institute, operates ORNL for DOE’s Office of Science.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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