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A senior research fellow in the Biosciences Center, Dr. Michael Himmel has more than 35 years of experience in conducting, supervising, and planning research in: protein biochemistry, recombinant technology, enzyme engineering, new micro-organism discovery, and physicochemistry of macromolecules.
Dr. Himmel has supervised research that targets the application of site-directed mutagenesis and rational protein design to the stabilization and improvement of important industrial enzymes, especially glycosyl hydrolases. He has functioned as PI for the DOE EERE Office of the Biomass Program (OBP) since 1992, and his responsibilities have included: research to improve cellulase performance; reducing biomass pretreatment costs; and improving yields of fermentable sugars. Dr. Himmel also developed new facilities at NREL for biomass conversion research, including a Cellulase Biochemistry Laboratory, a Biomass Surface Characterization Laboratory, a Protein Crystallography Laboratory, and a new Computational Science Team.
During the past three decades, Dr. Himmel contributed 345 peer reviewed journal articles to the literature. In addition, he has edited eight books and been awarded 25 patents. He has organized or co-organized 15 international conferences on aspects of biotechnology and biomass conversion. In 2008, Dr. Himmel edited a new book for Blackwell Publishers entitled "Biomass Recalcitrance," which is listed as a top selling book in science and has now been translated into Chinese. He served as chair for the new Gordon Research Conference on cellulases and cellulosomes in 2003 and continues to support the conference. Dr. Himmel currently works closely with the biomass conversion industry, as demonstrated by the numerous CRADAs currently underway in his NREL laboratory.
Dr. Robert O’Brien is an internationally recognized Principal Nuclear Scientist/Engineer who has focused his career on the development of advanced materials and energy systems in addition to the manufacturing processes to produce materials for harsh environments Dr. O’Brien received a PhD in the nuclear engineering and physics of radioisotope and nuclear power / propulsion systems for space exploration from the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom. Under his PhD research project, Dr. O’Brien proposed the use of americium-based radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) and developed Spark Plasma Sintering (SPS) Electric Field Assisted Sintering Techniques (EFAST) for the encapsulation of nuclear materials for both RTGs and nuclear reactor fuels. Dr. O’Brien also received a Masters degree in Physics with Space Science and technology from the University of Leicester. Dr. O’Brien’s research and programmatic management experience in advanced manufacturing of harsh environment materials, space systems and instrumentation design/development, defense systems, nuclear fuel performance, nuclear instrumentation, nuclear safety, irradiation testing, radioisotope source design, and nuclear power system design and development.
Dr. O’Brien currently serves as the Director of Advanced Manufacturing for the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL). Under this role, Dr O’Brien’s leadership extends across all of the Directorates of the laboratory; Energy & Environment Science & Technology, Nuclear Science & Technology, National & Homeland Security, Materials & Fuels Complex, Advanced Test Reactor, and Industry Engagement.
- Basic science: seeks to understand how nature works. This research includes experimental and theoretical work in materials science, physics, chemistry, biology, high-energy physics, and mathematics and computer science, including high performance computing.
- Applied science and engineering helps to find practical solutions to society’s problems. These programs focus primarily on energy resources, environmental management and national security.