Director’s message: Staying informed, staying the course, staying connected
My colleagues, it has been a busy couple of weeks since my last message. I want to give you some updates and share how you all continue to make me proud to lead this lab.
During the last week of March, I traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with Acting U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science (SC) Director Steve Binkley and the other SC lab directors and to participate in a meeting of the National Laboratory Directors Council (NLDC) with Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and program office representatives. Steve shared that DOE continues to learn more about the priorities of the new presidential administration and is working on the department’s input to the Office of Management and Budget for the preparation of the President’s Budget Request, scheduled for release on May 15. Steve echoed the same reminder I have been sharing with all of you: we are at the beginning of a long process and much give and take will occur before we know the FY18 budget. As challenging as patience can be sometimes, it is heartening to know that our colleagues in Washington understand the struggle. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the basic structure of our budget, I encourage you to read the column recently published by Argonne Chief Financial Officer Jeff Purnell.
I am pleased to report that Argonne is a leader in many of the areas Secretary Perry addressed in his remarks to the NLDC, including exascale computing and commercialization. Six DOE labs are leading to develop exascale computing — systems 50 times faster than the most powerful supercomputers in use today — in the U.S. As one of the three SC labs, Argonne offers unique insight on what is necessary to keep up the progress. The secretary also wants lab representatives to identify their barriers to commercialization — that is, moving technology from the national labs to industry. Argonne is part of an NLDC working group formed to advise Secretary Perry on that question.
Closer to home, I have been communicating regularly with my colleagues at the University of Chicago, who are dedicated to supporting the lab during the presidential transition and through the budget deliberations. The university is active in Washington, answering stakeholder questions and detailing Argonne’s unique contributions to the national laboratory system. Members of the UChicago Argonne, LLC, Board of Governors also embrace our mission, strengths and accomplishments and are working on our behalf to keep Argonne and its potential top of mind.
The university continues its search for a new lab director via the committee led by Eric Isaacs, Executive Vice President for Research, Innovation and National Laboratories. EVP Isaacs wants employees to know the committee appreciates those who offered their suggestions and feedback as the search got underway earlier this year, the search process is moving forward in a timely manner, and the university will not delay in making an announcement as soon as a decision on a new director is made.
Let me conclude this note with a story from right here on campus, where recent news that the U.S. State Department has ordered consulates to increase the screening of visa applicants has prompted some questions from lab employees. The employees I am hearing from, however, are not visa holders themselves but rather others who are concerned that their coworkers may see their work with the lab interrupted or discontinued.
I want to assure you that the lab is fully committed to fulfilling the needs of employees whose work depends on visas. Human Resources Services (HRS) maintains a directory of all these employees and proactively contacts them and their division directors as deadlines approach for action on their status documents. By helping ensure that necessary paperwork is accurate and submitted on time, HRS team members play a vital role in upholding the lab’s dedication to diversity and inclusion.
You too are honoring that promise. Your genuine concern for your colleagues inspires me and I thank you for sharing my belief that the lab is at its best when our teams represent a wide spectrum of backgrounds, interpersonal and leadership styles, and approaches to scientific inquiry. I thank you for helping create and sustain the kind of inclusive workplace where we, in the course of meeting our mission, look out for one another’s security and wellbeing as well.
If you have a question about the topics I have covered here, or anything else, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Better yet, stop by to talk to me during Conversations with Kearns, every Monday from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. in the Bldg. 213 Cafeteria. I look forward to hearing from you.