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Cable-Dunlap, Chi, Smith and Thornton named ORNL Corporate Fellows

From left, Cable-Dunlap, Chi, Smith and Thornton have been named ORNL Corporate Fellows. Credit: ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy
From left, Cable-Dunlap, Chi, Smith and Thornton have been named ORNL Corporate Fellows. Credit: ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Four researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have been named ORNL Corporate Fellows in recognition of significant career accomplishments and continued leadership in their scientific fields.

Corporate Fellow is the highest recognition for members of the ORNL research staff. Paula Cable-Dunlap, Miaofang Chi, Scott Smith and Peter Thornton have been recognized by the laboratory for their standing in the international scientific community as exceptional and influential researchers and as role models and mentors among peers and early career researchers.

“Paula, Miaofang, Scott and Peter represent the breadth, scope and excellence of the work ORNL performs for the nation, and it is exciting to have them join the ranks of the ORNL Corporate Fellows,” ORNL Director Stephen Streiffer said. “Materials research, manufacturing, climate science and national security are critical research areas. The Corporate Fellow designation also recognizes their leadership in the important task of preparing future generations of scientists to tackle the world's toughest scientific challenges.”

Paula Cable-Dunlap leads the Nuclear Nonproliferation Division's Materials Characterization and Modeling Section. Her work focuses on collecting and characterizing particles from environmental samples and building teams to detect emanations, such as seismic vibrations, to detect potential rogue nuclear activity and to verify compliance with global nuclear nonproliferation standards set by the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA. She is cited for her advancement of the scientific underpinnings of mass spectrometry as well as collection technologies and strategies with a focus on nuclear nonproliferation.

Cable-Dunlap is credited with inventing the radio frequency glow discharge Fourier transform ion cyclotron mass spectrometer and the patented Aerosol Contaminant Extractor to collect particles in a manner that allows for direct analysis of the collected particulates. Cable-Dunlap also helped champion the development of the ORNL Ultra-Trace Forensic Science Center, a premier mass spectrometry center that supports the IAEA.

Recognized in the U.S. government as one of the leading experts in her field, Cable-Dunlap is sought out to advise on and lead cutting-edge research, field campaigns and exercises to detect proliferation activities. She has mentored dozens of early and mid-career staff members at ORNL and partner sites who have advanced in their careers as a result of her mentorship. Her peer-reviewed publications include more than 200 classified reports in addition to numerous presentations.

Miaofang Chi is a distinguished R&D staff member in the Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy group in ORNL's Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences. She is cited for her contributions to the development and application of advanced electron microscopy techniques for the study of a broad range of energy and quantum materials.

As the only ORNL researcher who has been named the laboratory's top scientist twice, in 2015 and 2021, Chi has consistently demonstrated leadership and the vision necessary for building and fostering transformational science. She has been instrumental in solidifying ORNL’s reputation as one of the most recognized microscopy facilities in the world, attracting top-rated new staff, distinguished staff fellows, collaborators, postdoctoral researchers and students. Chi has maintained a strong network of both internal and external collaborators and has built an outstanding research portfolio in developing novel microscopy methods to study energy, mass and charge transport behavior in solid-state electrolytes, catalysts and quantum materials.

Chi is one of the laboratory's most highly cited researchers. Her awards include the Microscopy Society of America Burton Medal in 2016 and the K.F.J. Heinrich Award from the Microanalysis Society in 2019. Chi also received a Basic Energy Sciences Early Career Award in 2019 for her proposal titled “Probing Anionic Electron Behavior in Electrides” with an aim to develop novel microscopy techniques to enable new research in quantum materials. She is a fellow of the Microscopy Society of America.

Scott Smith is an internationally recognized leader in the areas of manufacturing and machine tools, with seminal impacts in machine tool research. He is cited for his fundamental and translational research including development of leading systems, processes, sensors and controls. His technical excellence, international reputation of accomplishment and the team of researchers that he has assembled at ORNL have been crucial for building a multi-million-dollar, multi-year machine tool research program focused on supply chain issues for defense and energy systems.

Smith’s work in the dynamics and vibration of machine tool systems has resulted in fundamental insights, related to high-speed machining and the machining of thin structures, with commercial and national security impacts. The technologies and methods Smith has developed have enabled the machining of thin parts with a thickness an order of magnitude below previous capabilities, as well as economical machining of complex monolithic parts that replace assemblies comprising hundreds to thousands of parts.

Smith, who leads the Manufacturing Science Division's Precision Manufacturing and Machine Section, is a fellow of three professional societies: the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and the International Academy for Production Engineering. He has more than 100 technical publications, 10 professional society awards, co-authorship of two textbooks and 14 patents.

In a career spanning a quarter century, Peter Thornton has increased ORNL’s stature as a scientific organization in both the national and international climate change science communities and in the development of the next generation of scientists and engineers. He is cited for his scientific and technology contributions to Earth system model development and applications, significantly improving predictions of how terrestrial ecosystems respond to climate change.

Thornton's research has led to the development of DOE’s flagship Earth system model — the Energy Exascale Earth System Model — that includes coupled carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycles and their applications. The integration of nutrients into Earth system models has placed ORNL’s terrestrial ecology at the forefront of climate research by improving the impact prediction of future climate scenarios on terrestrial ecosystems.

Thornton, who directs ORNL's Climate Change Science Institute and leads the Environmental Sciences Division's Earth Systems Science Section, is regarded as an enthusiastic mentor of postdoctoral researchers and students, and has helped staff scientists achieve their professional objectives. His commitment to training the next generation of scientists and engineers is illustrated by his work with more than 200 middle and high school students to design, build and launch a cube satellite that monitored ecosystem recovery from a 2016 wildfire, inspiring many students to pursue majors related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was a Clarivate Highly Cited Researcher in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

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