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Wagner named associate laboratory director for Energy Science and Technology

Robert Wagner headshot
Robert Wagner

The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has named Robert Wagner associate laboratory director for the Energy Science and Technology Directorate, effective Feb. 1.

“A large part of our applied research portfolio is stewarded by our Energy Science and Technology Directorate, which is developing solutions for the grid, buildings, transportation and manufacturing to help the United States reach its clean energy goals,” said ORNL Director Stephen K. Streiffer. “With Robert’s leadership and research experience, he is an ideal choice to ensure ORNL remains at the forefront of these efforts for the nation.”

ESTD researchers focus on supporting America’s drive toward a flexible, secure and decarbonized energy future. ESTD delivers breakthroughs in energy science and technology, including generation, distribution, storage and end use using one-of-a-kind comprehensive capabilities to deliver maximum impact. The directorate stewards four unique DOE national user facilities and several collaborative centers that bring together some of the country’s most innovative companies, universities and laboratories to drive early-stage technologies to deployment.

With more than 20 years at ORNL, Wagner has a record of success leading programs with impact across the national laboratory system, partnering with industry to move innovation into the marketplace and overseeing multiple DOE user facilities. Each of these elements is essential to developing and deploying technologies that will accelerate the clean energy transition and enable a net-zero economy by 2050. 

Wagner has served as director of ESTD’s Buildings and Transportation Science Division since 2020. In this role, he is responsible for two of the four DOE applied energy user facilities at ORNL — the National Transportation Research Center, or NTRC, and the Building Technologies Research and Integration Center, or BTRIC. 

From 2017 to 2020, he directed the NTRC while also serving as DOE’s Laboratory Relationship Manager for the Advanced Combustions Engine Systems and Fuels R&D Program. Wagner has also served as leader of the Fuels and Engines Research group, director of the Fuels Engines and Emission Research Center and as a distinguished research staff member. He joined ORNL as a postdoctoral fellow in 1999 after holding multiple student internships at the lab during the 1990s. 

Wagner is widely recognized by the scientific community for his research contributions, specifically in making vehicles cleaner and more efficient. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and SAE International, and was recently awarded the SAE International Medal of Honor. He has served on multiple editorial boards of international journals; organized dozens of technical conferences, symposiums and panels; and authored more than 100 publications. 

In 2018, Wagner founded the ORNL Smoky Mountains Mobility Conference to connect thought leaders from multiple disciplines to discuss how to overcome barriers to a more efficient, safe and secure mobility future. In 2022, he took part in DOE’s Oppenheimer Science and Energy Leadership Program, or OSELP, in which participants explore and gain an in-depth understanding of the national laboratory system and its partners. He is now the vice chair of the Oppenheimer Leadership Network, a group of OSELP alumni that serves as a resource to leadership of the national laboratories. 

Wagner earned his bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate in mechanical engineering from the Missouri University of Science and Technology. He is a first-generation college graduate and recently returned to his alma mater to give the Ph.D. commencement address. 

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