“Thomas has a compelling vision for the future of ORNL that is directly aligned with the US Department of Energy’s strategic priorities,” said Joe DiPietro, chair of the UT-Battelle Board of Governors and president of the University of Tennessee.
“He has led many of the innovative research and development initiatives that ORNL has successfully pursued over the past decade,” DiPietro added. “His background in materials and computing positions him well to strengthen ORNL’s signature research capabilities in computational, neutron, materials and nuclear science. His vision of ORNL playing a prominent role in advancing US national and energy security reflects his leadership strengths. He has been key to the success of developing joint academic programs with UT. Finally, he embraces diversity and has a passion for developing and strengthening the workforce at the laboratory.”
Zacharia came to ORNL in 1987 as a postdoctoral researcher after receiving his Ph.D. in engineering science from Clarkson University in New York. He also holds a master’s in materials science from the University of Mississippi and a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from the National Institute of Technology in Karnataka, India.
When UT-Battelle became ORNL’s management and operating contractor in April 2000, Zacharia was director of the Computer Science and Mathematics Division. In 2001, he was named associate laboratory director for the new Computing and Computational Sciences Directorate, and over the next eight years he built a scientific enterprise that brought more than 500 new staff to Oak Ridge and opened the nation’s largest unclassified scientific computing center, the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, a user facility of DOE’s Office of Science. Zacharia was named ORNL’s deputy for science and technology in 2009, responsible for the lab’s entire research and development portfolio.
In 2012, Zacharia took a leave to serve as EVP of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, overseeing research in energy and the environment, information and computing technology, life sciences and biomedical research, and social sciences, as well as leading the country’s science and technology park, which is home to more than 40 multi-national companies including GE, Microsoft and Siemens. He returned to ORNL in 2015.
The UT-Battelle board conducted an open, competitive search for a new director after Thom Mason announced that he would be leaving to join Battelle after 10 years leading ORNL.
Zacharia’s appointment as director will be effective July 1, when Mason becomes SVP for laboratory operations at Battelle in Columbus, OH, where he will work with Ron Townsend, EVP of global laboratory operations, to support the six DOE labs and one Department of Homeland Security lab managed by Battelle.