Skip to main content

Robert M Wagner

Robert M Wagner

Associate Laboratory Director, Energy Science and Technology

Dr. Robert Wagner is the Associate Laboratory Director of the Energy Science and Technology Directorate (ESTD) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). In this role, he leads more than 450 researchers, technical professionals and other staff focused on developing and deploying advanced technology solutions in manufacturing, buildings, transportation, and electrical grid infrastructure. He and his team steward four Department of Energy national user facilities with a focus on collaborations that drive fundamental scientific research toward practical solutions to the country’s energy challenges. 

A first-generation college graduate, Dr. Wagner came to ORNL as an undergraduate student in 1992 and advanced through multiple levels of leadership at the laboratory while building a distinguished career as globally recognized transportation and combustion researcher. He earned BS, MS, and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering from the Missouri University of Science & Technology. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

Prior to assuming leadership of ESTD in 2024, Dr. Wagner was the Director of the Buildings and Transportation Science Division (BTSD). During that time, he and his team stewarded two DOE national user facilities, the National Transportation Research Center (NTRC) and the Building Technologies Research and Integration Center (BTRIC). 

He is a former Director of the NTRC and was a leader and founding member of the DOE initiative on the Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines. The initiative brought together the expertise of nine national laboratories, more than 20 universities, and the DOE Vehicle Technologies Office and Bioenergy Technologies Office.

Dr. Wagner has served on the editorial boards of four international journals and on executive committees for ASME and SAE. He organized more than 30 significant technical conferences, symposiums, and panels and authored more than 100 technical publications. He provided more than 60 invited presentations in 10 countries. He also founded the ORNL Smoky Mountains Mobility Conference. This unique forum connects international thought leaders from diverse disciplines across industry, universities, national laboratories, and the government to drive the conversation for a more efficient, safe, and secure mobility future.

More information is available on LinkedIn and Google Scholar profiles.

Career Highlights

  • Director, Energy Science and Technology Directorate (2024-present)
  • Director, Buildings and Transportation Science Division (2020-2024)
  • Director, National Transportation Research Center (2017-2020)
  • Lead, DOE Initiative on Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines (2018-2020)
  • Founding Member and Leadership Team, DOE Initiative on Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines (2015-2021)
  • Faculty, University of Tennessee Bredesen Center (2013-2021)
  • ORNL Relationship Manager, Fuels Engines and Emissions Research (2010-2020)
  • Distinguished Research Staff (2009-2018)
  • Director, Fuels Engines and Emissions Research Center (2010-2017)
  • Leader, Fuels and Engines Research Group (2012-2017)
  • Senior Research Staff (2004-2008)
  • Research Staff (2000-2003)
  • Post-doctoral Research Associate (1999-2000)
  • Graduate Student Intern (1998)
  • Graduate Student Intern (1996)
  • Undergraduate Student Intern (1992)


External Honors and Awards

  • 2023 – SAE International L. Ray Buckendale Lecture Award
  • 2023 – SAE International Medal of Honor
  • 2022 – Missouri S&T Ph.D. Commencement Speaker
  • 2022 – IEEE Senior Member
  • 2022 – Oppenheimer Science and Energy Leadership Program
  • 2021 – DOE Vehicle Technologies Office Project Team Award
  • 2019 – SAE International Top Contributor Class
  • 2019 – DOE Vehicle Technologies Office Leadership Award
  • 2018 – Missouri S&T Academy of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineers  
  • 2018 – ASME McDonald Mentoring Award  
  • 2018 – SAE Forest R. McFarland Award  
  • 2017 – AAAS Fellow  
  • 2015 – ASME Fellow  
  • 2014 – ASME Internal Combustion Engine Award  
  • 2014 – SAE International Leadership Citation  
  • 2012 – SAE Fellow  
  • 2011 – NAE China-America Frontiers of Engineering Symposium  
  • 2010 – SAE Forest R. McFarland Award  
  • 2010 – NAE U.S. Frontiers of Engineering Symposium
  • 1999 – EPA Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowship

Honor Societies

  • Phi Kappa Phi (General Honor Society)  
  • Tau Beta Pi (Engineering Honor Society)  
  • Pi Tau Sigma (Mechanical Engineering Honor Society)  
  • Sigma Xi (Scientific Research Honor Society)

Professional Affiliations

Advisory Board Membership

  • Review Board for the Clemson University Virtual Prototyping of autonomy-enabled Grounds Systems (VIPR-GS) Center (2023)
  • Advisory Board of the Ohio State University Center for Automotive Research (2021–Present)
  • Strategic Advisory Council of the Missouri University of Science and Technology College of Engineering and Computing (2021–Present)
  • Board of Advisory Trustees of Southwest Research Institute (2018–Present)
  • Board of Advisors for the Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering Department at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (2017–Present)
  • Advisory Committee of the Energy and Policy Innovation Center at the Georgia Institute of Technology (2017–2018)
  • International Scientific Advisory Board of Competence Center Combustion Processes Engine Research Center at Lund University, Sweden (2016, 2018, 2020)
  • Program Advisory Group for California Air Resource Board program on Evaluating Technologies and Methods to Lower Nitrogen Oxide Emissions from Heavy-Duty Vehicles (2013–2018)

Editorial Boards

  • Member of the Editorial Board for Energies (2019–Present)
  • Member of the Editorial Board for Engineering Engine and Fuel (2018–Present)
  • Member of Editorial Board (2010–Present) and the International Advisory Board (2019–Present) for the International Journal of Engine Research
  • Associate editor of Frontiers in Engines and Automotive Engineering subtopic on “Engine and Vehicle Systems” (2014–2021)
  • Member of founding Editorial Board of the Journal of Emission Control Science and Technology (2014–2018)
  • Guest editor of the International Journal of Engine Research special issue on “Cyclic Dispersion in Engine Combustion” (2014–2015)
  • Associate editor of the SAE International Journal of Engines (2012–2015)

Notable Technical Society Leadership

  • Member, ASME Nominating Committee (2022-Present)
  • Chair, ASME McDonald Mentoring Award Committee (2023-Present)
  • Member, ASME McDonald Mentoring Award Committee (2022-Present)
  • Chair, ASME Internal Combustion Engine Award Committee (2019-2021)
  • Member, ASME Internal Combustion Engine Award Committee (2016-2021)
  • Division Chair, ASME Internal Combustion Engine Division (2018-2019)  
  • Division Vice-chair, ASME Internal Combustion Engine Division (2017-2018)  
  • Division Assistant Vice-chair, ASME Internal Combustion Engine Division (2016-2017)  
  • Organizer of two ASME Internal Combustion Engine Fall Conferences
  • Chair, SAE Fuels & Combustion Committee (2008-2009)
  • Founder and/or organizer of more than 20 SAE International symposiums, panels, and conferences