Oak Ridge National Lab director to retire in December

Thomas Zacharia will depart after a 35-year career at the laboratory.
The Titan supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. (Department of Energy)

Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s director will retire at the end of 2022 on the heels of its exascale computer, Frontier, being named the world’s fastest.

The laboratory on Tuesday announced news of Thomas Zacharia’s departure, and said it will conduct a search for his successor.

Zacharia leaves after 35 years at the country’s largest science and energy lab, including five as director of the facility, which has nearly 6,000 people and a $2.5 billion research portfolio.

“I am very optimistic about ORNL’s future and in its pursuit of excellence: to be among the premier research institutions in the world,” Zacharia wrote in a message to staff. “When people ask me what I will miss most, there is no doubt it is our staff, who have always been our most distinguishing strength.”


Zacharia helped establish the Exascale Computing Project, Quantum Science Center and UT-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute; create the National Security Sciences Directorate; and advance neutron, fusion energy and isotope research. He also steered ORNL through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While rising through ORNL’s computing ranks, Zacharia served as deputy for science and technology, in charge of all research and development programs, and before that stood up the Computing and Computational Sciences Directorate in 2001.

“An incredible leader, extraordinary collaborator and powerhouse innovator, Thomas is leaving a profound impact on ORNL and the world,” said Randy Boyd, chairman of the UT-Battelle board of governors, in the announcement.

Dave Nyczepir

Written by Dave Nyczepir

Dave Nyczepir is a technology reporter for FedScoop. He was previously the news editor for Route Fifty and, before that, the education reporter for The Desert Sun newspaper in Palm Springs, California. He covered the 2012 campaign cycle as the staff writer for Campaigns & Elections magazine and Maryland’s 2012 legislative session as the politics reporter for Capital News Service at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he earned his master’s of journalism.

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