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Zacharia receives GEM leadership award recognizing STEM diversity commitment

Thomas Zacharia, director of the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, was recognized with a corporate leadership award from the National Graduate Education for Minorities, or GEM, Consortium during the organization’s leadership gala on Sept. 9 as part of its annual meeting.

The award recognizes Zacharia for influential leadership, commitment and passion for public service, and dedication to creating better opportunities for members of underrepresented groups in STEM-related fields.

“Oak Ridge National Laboratory is one of the largest national lab supporters of the GEM program. Over the years, Thomas and his leadership team have shown a strong commitment to achieving scientific impact by focusing on creating high-performing diverse groups,” said Brennon Marcano, CEO of the National GEM Consortium. “We acknowledge that commitment through this award and look forward to continuing to grow the relationship between ORNL and GEM."

More than 30 fellows completed fellowships during the summer of 2021 in a virtual environment. Zacharia attributes that success to ORNL’s intentional approach in connecting GEM interns with each other and the ORNL community even before the internships began.

“If ORNL is going to succeed in our vital national missions, we must continue to attract top diverse talent from around the country and around the world,” Zacharia said. “We never know where tomorrow’s leaders may come from. What is important is making sure we are providing opportunities to as diverse a field as possible and giving them the tools to succeed. This is why we partner with GEM and why I am so proud to accept this honor.”

For decades, ORNL has partnered with historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, and minority serving institutes to develop and fulfill internship and career opportunities at the lab while encouraging scientific collaboration between these institutions and ORNL research programs. As recent as this year, the lab was named a top supporter of HBCUs by a panel of deans of HBCU engineering programs and the Advancing Minorities’ Interest in Engineering corporate-academic alliance.

Zacharia was named director of ORNL in 2017. In his position, he guides the application of a broad set of core capabilities to compelling problems in science and technology, using ORNL's signature strengths in materials science and engineering, high-performance computing and computational sciences, neutron science, and nuclear science and technology. He also directs the development and execution of plans to ensure the future of the laboratory, which has an annual budget of $2.4 billion and employs more than 5,700 staff.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for 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