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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.
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.
Emily Donahue is a member of the technical staff at Sandia. She applies state-of-the-art machine learning innovations to novel applications for national security. She performs research in unsupervised learning, anomaly detection, and data-driven code acceleration. Emily earned her Master of Engineering at Cornell University with a focus in computer vision. While away from her computer, she enjoys landscape painting and rock climbing.
Dr. Laurens is a research scientist with experience in diagnostics and sensor development, specifically high-throughput ESI MS looking for molecular markers from COVID-19 patients. Dr. Laurens is currently implementing computational tools for multivariate statistics on MS data, which could be applied to discern any virus-specific markers, or even patient-specific response markers. This MALDI-MS capability can be used for high-throughput 384-well robot compatible screening of samples, which then can enter into the same molecular computational data analysis tools as for the ESI data.
Additional research interests at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory include
- Dynamic biochemical composition of bioenergy-relevant biomass,
- Coproduct development from primary algal biomass components,
- Biofuel precursor behavior during biomass conversion processes,
- Algae-derived green crude valorization,
- High-throughput screening technologies for compositional analysis of microbial biomass,
- Standardization of algal biomass compositional analysis, and
- Technical standards for the algae industry.
To learn more about Dr. Laurens's research interests at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, please see Dr. Laurens's summary here.
Dr. Guarnieri is a research scientist with experience in biochemistry and molecular genetics, biophysics, and structural biology. Dr. Guarnieri's prior research included examining viral secretions and virus-host interactions.
At the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Dr. Guarnieri uses a systems biology approach—utilizing functional genomic, molecular, and biophysical techniques to identify, analyze, and engineer pathways involved in algal, bacterial, and fungal hydrocarbon and biochemical production. His current research interests include:
- Biocatalysis of methane to liquid fuels and chemicals,
- Biological upgrading of sugars to value-added chemicals in yeast and bacterial systems,
- Algal omics, protein engineering, and signal transduction,
- Biological deconstruction and upgrading of lignin, and
- Metabolic and protein engineering for enhanced hydrocarbon production.
For more information about Dr. Guarnieri's research at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, please see his summary here.