On one fine morning ORNL breaks ground for a new facility and bids farewell to a friendA new Environmental and Life Sciences Laboratory on the west end of ORNL is being referred to as the first installment of a leading research complex for genomic research to be built in the years to come. Ground was broken for the new Lab on October 20.
It was a day packed with a year’s worth of events. The occasion also marked what will likely be Office of Science Director Martha Kreb’s final official visit to ORNL. She is leaving her DOE post in December. Later that afternoon, DOE announced that the University of Tennessee–Battelle collaboration would assume management of the Lab next spring (see page 1).
The new laboratory is a first installment of a life sciences campus that will include facilities for biological research, including a new Mouse House and the Laboratory for Comparative and Functional Genomics. ORNL Director Al Trivelpiece noted that, through looks, feel and smell, he thought when he first came to ORNL as director 10 years ago that replacing the aging mouse facility at Y-12 should be a priority.
Noting the high cost of maintaining the old facility, Trivelpiece remarked: “A private sector company would have immediately built a new building with a very short payback period.”
Admitting that things work differently in the government arena, Trivelpiece praised ORNL and DOE for putting together resources for the new lab, “a small step toward that ultimate dream facility.”
Krebs noted that the new life sciences lab was “something real” to affix to fellow guest and former Rep. Marilyn Lloyd’s namesake scientific complex, the Marilyn Lloyd Environmental and Life Sciences Research Complex. DOE and the nation, she said, have made “a very clear investment in genomics” and new facilities are needed to follow up when the genome sequence is complete, which she said may be as early as next year.
The new building, which is expected to be completed by next May and operational later in the year, will include 10 laboratories for genomics research.
Most of ORNL’s colony of 70,000 mutant mice still reside at the Y-12 site that Dr. Trivelpiece experienced when he came to ORNL in 1989.
Krebs’ appearance at the groundbreaking gave ORNL a poignant opportunity to honor her service as director of DOE’s Office of Science. Trivelpiece noted that the only person to serve as long in that post—more than six years—was himself, and that she had just exceeded his own tenure.
“Which is why she is leaving—records are made to be broken,” he joked. But he added that “continuity is important” in the Office of Science (until recently Office of Energy Research), in an environment where most assistant secretaries serve less than two years.
Trivelpiece noted the new facilties throughout DOE that have opened on Krebs’ watch, including the Advanced Light Source at Berkeley, the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne, the Thomas Jefferson Accelerator Facility and the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven. At ORNL, Krebs has been an important factor in steering the Spallation Neutron Source on a course toward completion.
Krebs played a crucial role in the separation of ORNL from the rest of Energy Systems beginning in 1995. Trivelpiece said that the existing management arrangement that mixed the Laboratory with uranium and weapons production was “not appropriate for a knowledge-based business.”
“One of the first acts of Martha Krebs and (then Energy and Environment Sector President) Al Narath was to decide that ORNL should be on its own.”
Lloyd praised Krebs for “always promoting what was the best science policy for the country” and for promoting the advancement of women in science. Both Trivelpiece and Lloyd lauded her support to ORNL and to the science community.
“She may be leaving, but she won’t be gone,” Lloyd said.—B.C.