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Teknovation News and Notes
December 10, 2023 | Tom Ballard

News & Notes | ORNL names new Associate Lab Director and four Corporate Fellows

"Innovation Crossroads" alum has closed a $37 million Series B round and an additional $7 million in non-dilutive financing.

From Oak Ridge:

Gina Tourassi has assumed responsibilities as Associate Laboratory Director for the Computing and Computational Sciences Directorate at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Her appointment was announced December 4.

Tourassi joined ORNL in 2011 as Director of the Biomedical Sciences and Engineering Center. Since 2019, she has served as the Director of ORNL’s National Center for Computational Sciences, which includes the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility that is home to Frontier and a host of other computational resources. Before that, she led the Biomedical Sciences, Engineering, and Computing group from 2016 to 2019 after founding the Health Data Sciences Institute.

Another from Oak Ridge:

Four researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have been named Corporate Fellows in recognition of significant career accomplishments and continued leadership in their scientific fields. They are:

  • Paula Cable-Dunlap who leads the Nuclear Nonproliferation Division’s Materials Characterization and Modeling Section. Her work focuses on collecting and characterizing particles from environmental samples and building teams to detect emanations, such as seismic vibrations, to detect potential rogue nuclear activity and to verify compliance with global nuclear nonproliferation standards set by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
  • Miaofang Chi, a Distinguished R&D staff member in the Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy group in ORNL’s Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences. She is cited for her contributions to the development and application of advanced electron microscopy techniques for the study of a broad range of energy and quantum materials.
  • Scott Smith, an internationally recognized leader in the areas of manufacturing and machine tools with seminal impacts in machine tool research, was cited for his fundamental and translational research including development of leading systems, processes, sensors, and controls.
  • Peter Thornton directs ORNL’s Climate Change Science Institute and leads the Environmental Sciences Division’s Earth Systems Science Section. He was cited for his scientific and technology contributions to Earth system model development and applications, significantly improving predictions of how terrestrial ecosystems respond to climate change.

From Knoxville:

The Forensic Anthropology Center at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has received two grants totaling more than $580,000 from the Office of Justice Program’s National Institute of Justice. That is the research, development, and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice. A longtime grantee across numerous forensics research topics, the center – which includes the Anthropological Research Facility, also known as the Body Farm – is known worldwide for its research and training. The first of the two new research projects will help law enforcement locate clandestine graves, and the second will help inform how relic DNA in the soil affects forensic investigations.

From Boston, MA but with Ties to the Region:

“Innovation Crossroads” alum Nth Cycle continues to hit home runs. The latest is the announcement that the critical metals refining company has closed a $37 million Series B round and an additional $7 million in non-dilutive financing, led by VoLo Earth Ventures, a Colorado-based venture firm focused on climate solutions.

Nth Cycle’s patented electro-extraction technology replaces conventional and energy-intensive pyrometallurgy, also known as smelting, with a clean and modular refining system, aptly named The Oyster. Nth Cycle partners with industrial scrap recyclers, miners, and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to take a variety of feedstocks, including black mass, primary ore concentrates, and waste streams, and refines them into metal products for the domestic clean energy economy.

Co-Founded by Megan O’Connor who serves as the company’s Chief Executive Officer, she noted, “In just three years, we have grown out of the lab and into a commercial facility with new deployments of our modular Oyster units in the near future. Building critical relationships with our investors, partners, and policymakers has been a key part of Nth Cycle’s rapid growth to scale, and that commitment continues with this financing.”

From Washington, DC but with Statewide Impact:

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) have announced that they have signed a memorandum of understanding to provide DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Y-12 National Security Complex, and potentially other federal facilities in TVA’s service territory, with 100 percent locally supplied carbon pollution-free electricity by 2030. While the agreement centers on DOE’s facilities in Oak Ridge, the two agencies will look to partner with other federal properties in TVA’s service territory, which includes Tennessee and portions of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Virginia.


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