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Associate Laboratory Director, Biological and Environmental Systems Science Directorate

Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Full-time salaried position plus full benefits and retirement plan.
Closing date
Nov 22, 2022

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Job Type
Management / Executive
Organization Type

Requisition Id 9041 

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has an exceptional opportunity for a dynamic and visionary leader to serve as the Associate Laboratory Director for the Biological and Environmental Systems Science Directorate (BESSD). BESSD is a world leader in climate, environmental and biological systems science, with a focus on advancing a predictive understanding of these complex systems as needed to underpin the U.S. bioeconomy, Earth system resiliency, and decarbonization. BESSD researchers collaborate with experts across national laboratories, industry, and academia to generate new knowledge from genes to ecosystems and to translate that knowledge into multi-scale predictions of future behavior.  The staff of 300 in this vibrant organization are pushing the frontiers of Earth system modeling, plant genetics, phenotyping, and synthetic biology; developing novel testbeds and tools to propel enzyme engineering and harness plant-microbe interactions; leading the world’s largest global change experiments, with heavily instrumented testbeds and field sites around the world that are critical for quantifying ecological responses to climate change as well as more abrupt disturbances; and developing new data, AI, and HPC strategies using the world’s fastest supercomputers—now including the world’s only exascale computer Frontier—to predict future climate change as well as biological and environmental phenomena in a manner previously considered intractable. BESSD also takes advantage of expertise and DOE user-facilities led by ORNL to discover physical, chemical, hydrological, and biological phenomena and their coupling, including the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, Spallation Neutron Source, and the High Flux Isotope Reactor. Learn more about BESSD here.

As a key member of the Laboratory’s Senior Leadership Team, the Associate Laboratory Director works closely with the Laboratory Director, Deputy Lab Directors, and other Associate Laboratory Directors to address ORNL’s mission. Reporting to the Laboratory Director, the Associate Laboratory Director is accountable for strategic planning, people and operations leadership, research quality and integrity, safety, and communication for the Biological and Environmental Systems Science directorate. In this capacity, the Associate Laboratory Director leads the science and technology programs in biological and environmental sciences with responsibilities in three integrating roles to: 1) establish a compelling vision complemented with a strategic execution plan, 2) strengthen stakeholder engagement and relationship management with major sponsors, and 3) drive staff professional growth and development while creating organizational momentum that enhances our facilities and capabilities, including building and maintaining a culture that is committed to the ideals of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. The Associate Laboratory Director works with their leadership team and the Laboratory’s operations staff to develop and execute priorities for facility operations and planning, including BESSD’s unique Advanced Plant Phenotyping Laboratory (APPL). Together with the other Associate Laboratory Directors, this position participates in institutional research and management initiatives, develops cross-cutting research proposals and initiatives, and fosters collaboration across ORNL and with partner institutions outside of ORNL. 

About ORNL:
Established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project, ORNL is building on a legacy of discovery and innovation to continually address our most urgent R&D needs, now including climate change and the clean energy transition. Our wide range of partnerships with other US Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories and programs, universities, and industry allows us to pair our strengths with others for outstanding contributions to science. With a staff of ~5900 and annual budget of ~$2.4B, ORNL is the largest US Department of Energy Office of Science Laboratory, conducting basic and applied research to deliver transformative solutions to compelling problems in energy and security. ORNL’s diverse capabilities span a broad range of scientific and engineering disciplines, enabling the Laboratory to explore fundamental science challenges and to carry out the research needed to accelerate the delivery of solutions to the marketplace. UT-Battelle manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the US Department of Energy. 

Key Responsibilities:

  • Guide the long-term strategic vision for BESSD to sustain and propel national and international prominence; this includes new and continuing research funding, workforce development, scientific program goals, operational support, and scientific infrastructure needs. 
  • Serve as the primary liaison to the DOE Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER) and other key sponsors, providing thought leadership about new scientific frontiers and ensuring that client needs and expectations are met.
  • Promote a culture of scientific excellence, while performing work in a safe and secure manner.
  • Proactively promote principles of stewardship, inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility.
  • Contribute as a key member of the Senior Leadership Team to the formulation and execution of the Laboratory’s strategic priorities and initiatives. 
  • Develop research programs and strategic partnerships with other national laboratories, colleges, and universities, other research institutions, and public and private corporations.
  • Drive strategic initiatives for the directorate, including enzyme engineering, biocomplexity and resiliency from genes to ecosystems, urban systems, transformational decarbonization, AI, and self-driving laboratories.
  • Implement operational standards to meet the expectations of the Laboratory Agenda and the Annual Lab Plan and steward directorate operations, facilities, capital, and equipment.
  • Provide direct line management responsibilities for the Environmental Sciences Division, Biosciences Division, and the DOE Center for Bioenergy Innovation.
  • Oversee the recruitment and retention of national and international talent, ensuring a diverse applicant pool and employee workforce.
  • Promote science education and work to build a pipeline of next generation researchers through outreach and education programs with other national laboratories and learning institutions.
  • Foster employee development through mentoring, performance, and succession planning.
  • Act as the primary Directorate contact, representing the Directorate on Lab-Level committees, task forces, and working groups with a shared responsibility for the overall lab-wide science and technology strategy.
  • Integrate and implement commercialization activities through the Directorate’s business plan and strategies.
  • Develop communications strategies across the directorate on multi-disciplinary programs and initiatives.
  • Effectively communicate relevant information to key internal and external stakeholders. 

Required Qualifications:

  • Ph.D. degree relevant to fundamental Biological or Environmental Sciences research or a related discipline and minimum of 15 years of professional experience
  • Internationally recognized record of leadership and research accomplishments in a relevant field. 
  • Successful track record as a visionary and collaborative leader, with demonstrated management experience, including developing and leading large, complex, and multidisciplinary research programs and organizations.
  • Experience developing and implementing a strategic vision and plan, making high-level strategic decisions, and gaining consensus toward unified goals. 
  • Strong stakeholder management skills, including ability to establish relationships with key internal and external stakeholders and effectively navigate complex organizations. 
  • Proven ability to effectively and skillfully communicate with individuals as well as small to large teams.
  • Experience with the DOE Office of Science is preferred, especially Biological and Environmental Research.


  • This position requires the ability to obtain and maintain a clearance from the Department of Energy. As such, this position is a Workplace Substance Abuse (WSAP) testing designated position. WSAP positions require passing a pre-placement drug test and participation in an ongoing random drug testing program.

This position will remain open for a minimum of 5 days after which it will close when a qualified candidate is identified and/or hired.

We accept Word (.doc, .docx), Adobe (unsecured .pdf), Rich Text Format (.rtf), and HTML (.htm, .html) up to 5MB in size. Resumes from third party vendors will not be accepted; these resumes will be deleted and the candidates submitted will not be considered for employment.

If you have trouble applying for a position, please email

ORNL is an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants, including individuals with disabilities and protected veterans, are encouraged to apply.  UT-Battelle is an E-Verify employer.

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