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Kidder takes top award at ORNL’s Awards Night for leadership in mentoring

Michelle Kidder received the lab’s Director’s Award for Outstanding Individual Accomplishment in Science and Technology for her decades-long work mentoring students, teachers and early-career staff. Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Michelle Kidder has received the lab’s Director’s Award for Outstanding Individual Accomplishment in Science and Technology for her decades-long work mentoring students, teachers and early-career staff.

Laboratory Director Thomas Zacharia presented five Director’s Awards during Saturday night’s annual Awards Night event hosted by UT-Battelle, which manages ORNL for the Department of Energy.

“Awards Night provides an opportunity to look back on the year’s most significant accomplishments across ORNL in science, operations and community engagement,” Zacharia said. “Because of our staff — and their commitment and creativity — ORNL is successful in guiding numerous missions for the nation each day.”

Kidder, a clean energy technologies researcher in ORNL’s Manufacturing Science Division, received this year’s “Mentor of Researchers Award” earlier in the evening. She established the program “ORNL Mentorship” in 2008 and has mentored nearly two dozen students, teachers and early-career researchers over the years.

“Michelle has demonstrated 20 years of exceptional mentorship that has positively impacted her mentees’ career growth and opportunities,” said Ronald Ott, chief operating officer for the lab’s Energy Science and Technology Directorate. “She is a champion for her mentees’ success and has progressed and influenced ORNL’s mission through her dedication as a unique and thoughtful mentor.”

A Director’s Award in Outstanding Individual Accomplishment in Mission Support went to Scalable HPC Systems Group leader Don Maxwell. A 35-year veteran of ORNL, Maxwell was celebrated in the “Operational Leadership” category for 20 years of leadership in planning, deploying and operating ORNL’s world-class supercomputers, including Frontier.

“Throughout his tenure, Don has been a true leader in HPC systems engineering, design and deployment,” said Doug Kothe, associate laboratory director for Computing and Computational Sciences. “He has helped plan, coordinate and implement an impressive number of very complex and often conflicting tasks necessary to the successful installation, acceptance and transition to operations of the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility flagship systems.

“Under Don’s operational leadership over the past two decades, ORNL has successfully debuted and deployed four TOP500 number one supercomputer systems: Jaguar, Titan, Summit and most recently Frontier,” he said.

Eva Zarkadoula of the Materials Science and Technology Division also received a Director’s Award in Outstanding Individual Accomplishment in Mission Support, after being selected for the “One ORNL Award” for her work as president of the Women’s Alliance Council Employee Resource Group and other service to ORNL.

“In her role, she has worked to strengthen the group’s interactions and support, expand the membership and increase the activities of the group, as well as increase the opportunities for development and visibility of members of the group,” said Yutai Kato, MSTD interim director.

A 10-member team from the National Center for Computational Sciences took one of two Director’s Awards for Outstanding Team Accomplishment for its efforts supporting the launch of Frontier, the first supercomputer to break the exascale barrier by reaching speeds of more than a quintillion (or billion billion) calculations per second.

Members of the team — recognized in the “Distinguished Innovation” category earlier in the evening — are Scott Atchley, Philip Roth, Christopher Zimmer, Matthew Ezell, Austin Ellis, Wayne Joubert, Feiyi Wang, Michael Matheson, Hao Lu and Vlad Oles.

The team uncovered several performance challenges that might have prevented the system from reaching peak performance, developed optimized algorithms for use on graphics processing unit platforms such as Frontier and created a High Performance Linpack-Accelerator Introspection benchmark that demonstrated that Frontier had indeed broken the exascale barrier.

“The innovative HPL-AI tools developed during the Frontier benchmark process will have a lasting impact on the advancement of exascale computing in the U.S. and around the world,” said Kothe. “The work will enable the DOE and high-performance computing communities at large by guiding high-performance HPC application development and optimization efforts at scale.”

The other Director’s Award for Outstanding Team Accomplishment went to the team responsible for ORNL’s first-of-its-kind Cyber Science Research Facility.

The effort, led by Juan Lopez of the Cyber Resilience and Intelligence Division, focuses on cybersecurity and resilience research in critical infrastructure and was honored earlier in the evening with the “Operational Accomplishment” award.

The new facility provides research into vulnerabilities in software, hardware and complex cyber physical systems; develops resilience tools focused on risks to critical infrastructure; creates tools and capabilities for embedded hardware and software forensics, reverse engineering and supply chain analysis; and provides isolated networks of high-performance computers to conduct large-scale cybersecurity research.

“The team members distinguished themselves by establishing a world-class facility that consolidates and houses, in one location, significant core capabilities to support cyber science research, development, testing and evaluation of a broad portfolio of DOE projects and the national security mission,” Division Director Shaun Gleason said.

Other team members are Michael Iannacone, Miranda Baker, Lance Wetzel, Brandy Milun, Ryan Styles, Joel Dawson, Stacy Prowell, Joel Asiamah and Tricia Schulz.

Awards Night honorees are selected by committees and approved by the laboratory director. Nominations are made by division, program or directorate managers. The Director’s Award winners are selected from Awards Night honorees by the laboratory director with input from the deputy director for science and technology and the deputy director for operations.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. The Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit