White House Announces Nominations for Senior Department of Energy Positions

Share This

Publication date: 
20 November 2013

The  White House recently announced its intention to make nominations for three senior Department of Energy positions: the newly established Under Secretary  for Science and Energy, Director of the Office of Science, and Director of the  Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy.

Under Secretary  for Science and Energy:

Franklin  M. (“Lynn”) Orr, Jr. will be nominated to be the Undersecretary for Science and  Energy.

Orr is currently the director of the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University, where he is also a professor of petroleum engineering.  Orr has a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from  the University of Minnesota.

A  Stanford website explains that Orr’s research “focuses on  understanding the physical mechanisms that control displacement performance in  gas injection processes for oil recovery and for storage of greenhouse gases  like CO2 in oil and gas reservoirs, deep formations that contain salt water,  and coal beds.  Orr is working to develop  efficient and accurate computational tools for prediction of flow performance  at field scale in subsurface heterogeneous rocks.”  The profile also states that Orr “served as director of Stanford’s Global  Climate and Energy Project from 2002 – 2008.”

The  position of Under Secretary for Science and Energy was created by Energy  Secretary Ernest Moniz.  Earlier this  year, Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman testified about the reorganization of the DOE:

“The  first major component of the reorganization expands the portfolio of the  statutory Under Secretary for Science to include the energy technology  portfolio, establishing the Office of the Under Secretary for Science and  Energy. Successful innovation for implementing the President’s ‘all of the  above’ energy strategy requires the ability to closely integrate basic science,  applied research, and technology demonstration. It also should enable clear  feedback loops, so barriers to technology development can inform scientific  direction and inquiry.

“We  also need to accelerate the innovation process -- to rapidly translate  scientific discovery into transformative  technologies. This is especially important in light of the urgency of  addressing climate change and the need rapidly to develop technologies to  materially alter the trajectory of greenhouse gas pollution.  Establishing the Office of the Under Secretary for Science and Energy is key to enabling this critical transformation,  and to implement the recommendation of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science  and Technology (PCAST) and other studies that have pointed to the need to  improve integration of the science and applied energy R&D programs of the  Department. This office will have direct oversight responsibility for the  following offices:”

Office  of Science, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Office of Nuclear Energy, Office of Fossil Energy, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy  Reliability, Office of Indian Energy, and Office of Technology Transfer Coordinator.

The  former position of Under Secretary for Science was held by Steven Koonin until November 2011. 


Director of the  DOE Office of Science:

Marc  Kastner will be nominated to be the Director of the Office of Science.

Kastner  is the Dean of the School of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of  Technology, where he is a professor of physics.   He has also led its Center for Materials Science and Engineering.  Kastner has a Ph.D. in Physics from the  University of Chicago.  Kastner is a  fellow of the American Physical Society (an AIP Member Society).

A  MIT website explains: “Professor  Kastner's group is studying the motion of electrons in nanometer-size  semiconductor structures, in which the motion of electrons is highly  correlated. In simple metals and semiconductors, like Aluminum and Silicon,  each electron moves as though it were independent of all the others. The  Coulomb interactions of the other electrons creates an average potential that  changes things like the electron's effective mass, but for the most part, a  single-electron picture is adequate.”

This  position was held by William Brinkman until this spring.


Director of the  Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy:

Ellen Williams has been nominated to be the Director of the Advanced Research  Projects Agency – Energy.

Williams  is now the Chief Scientist for BP.  She has been on a leave of absence from the University of Maryland since 2010 where she is a professor in the Department of Physics and the Institute for Physical  Science and Technology.  She has a Ph.D.  in Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology.

A  BP website states:

“My research  background is in the field of nanoscience, where I pioneered the use of a new  experimental tool, scanned probe microscopy, to understand how technically  useful properties of materials can be tuned based on the way individual atoms  and molecules behave. One of the last materials I worked on was the ultimate  thin film - graphene - which is only one atom thick and as a result has amazing  properties with potential applications in chemistry, coatings and electronics.

“In addition,  I’ve been active in technical assessment of large programmes for the US  Department of Defence and Department of Energy. At present I’m also engaging on  advisory boards for the Electric Power Research Institute and the National  Academy of Sciences Policy and Global Affairs and Sustainability programmes.”

The  January 2012 issue of Physics Today includes an interview with Williams in which she comments on her position at BP and sustainable energy. 

This position was held by Arun Majumdar until June 2012.