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Section Head, Burning Plasma Foundations

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is seeking a Section Head for the Fusion Energy Division

  • Closing soon
  • Closing date: 14 Aug 2020
  • United States | Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • Date posted: 13 Jul 2020
  • Job type: Research facilities
  • Disciplines: Plasma science & technology  | Nuclear, fusion & energy 

We are seeking a Section Head for the Fusion Energy Division. The Burning Plasma Foundations Section will develop the technical basis and resolve key challenges towards achieving and sustaining high performance burning plasmas in fusion devices such as ITER.  The development of a comprehensive set of modeling and measurement tools, validated against experimental data, for use in the design and operation of these future devices will be a primary focus. This section consists of the groups below.

Plasma Theory and Modeling Deliver the theoretical foundation and state-of-the-art simulation/modeling capabilities to resolve critical issues and inform design/operation of ITER and future fusion devices

Diagnostics and Controls Develop and validate innovative measurement and control capabilities needed to understand and control important physics phenomena in present devices and maintain robust control in the fusion nuclear environment of future fusion devices.

Advanced Tokamak Physics Establish high confidence, embodied in a validated modeling suite, in achieving high performance, steady-state tokamak regimes in ITER and future fusion devices

Power Exhaust and Particle Control Deliver power exhaust/particle control solutions and accompanying physics basis required for compact fusion devices

Provide Research and Development (R&D) leadership to a thematic area of science and technology that integrates several thematically aligned R&D groups consistent with ORNL’s aspiration to be the world’s premier R&D institution and ORNL’s science culture.

The R&D Section Head works closely with the Division Director and section Group Leaders to establish and implement the science and technology directions for the section; supports the Group Leaders to ensure the success of the R&D groups as world-recognized leaders in their fields; ensures that staff members understand business opportunities; identify links to current and future funding opportunities and R&D programs; develops and implements consistent processes for the peer-review of proposals consistent with lab standards; models proper Environment, Safety, Security, Health, and Quality practices; and ensures a diverse and inclusive work environment where every employee feels safe, heard and appreciated — a workplace that sets an example for the broader community.

Research and impact
Scientists/engineers/analysts who have significantly advanced knowledge/technology in their respective field.  Their work directly impacts the present or future of the laboratory in significant ways.  Initiates, leads and performs R&D programs and initiatives on an ongoing basis.  Expectations are consistent with those for RP05 or higher.


  • Work closely with the Division Director and Group Leaders within the section to develop a vision and implement a strategy to pursue world-leading science and technology directions for the section. Demonstrate cross-functional team leadership.
  • Support Division Director in the operations of the division and represent Director when Director is not available.
  • Work with section Group Leaders to establish, communicate, and measure critical metrics for success and impact. Benchmark against the best in the world.
  • Actively contribute to shaping the division’s, directorate’s, and laboratory’s research plans and investments.
  • Build strong teams by collaborating across ORNL and securing external expertise when needed. Leverage ORNL facilities and resources when developing new projects.
  • Work with the Group Leaders and the Division Director to assess and calibrate individual staff performance across the section.  Evaluate progress regularly, providing feedback and addressing performance issues in a timely manner.
  • Develop and implement Succession Planning with input from Group Leaders for all critical positions in the section to ensure future success.
  • Ensure groups are recruiting and hiring from a diverse pool of top candidates who are committed to world-class research and aspire to be the best in their field.  Approve job offers.
  • Drive staff promotions and development.
  • Address in a timely manner all concerns expressed by staff and any disciplinary actions.
  • Lead by example, using the principles in ORNL’s “Research Code of Conduct” as a guide for proposing, performing, and communicating research and in dealing with others.
  • Employ best practices, such as holding regular meetings, being visible in the workplace, monitoring budgets, acknowledging sponsors, and adhering to ORNL business systems requirements regarding staff requests for foreign travel and submission of quality proposals.
  • Coach and mentor staff regarding Battelle’s “Safe Conduct of Research” principles and ensure all work is carried out safely, securely, and in compliance with ORNL policies, standards, and procedures.
  • Exemplify a commitment to “One ORNL” by modeling lab expectations for excellence in research, operations, and community engagement, and by working cooperatively to leverage capabilities across the lab.


  • Serve as direct supervisor for section Group Leaders.
  • Counsel/consult/mentor staff and transfer knowledge of specialized field(s) to a variety of staff, including senior staff. 
  • Connect staff to your network.  Assist Group Leaders (and R&D staff when appropriate) in setting long-term career goals.  Identify additional mentors as appropriate and engage senior staff to act in this capacity.   
  • Be open and transparent in communicating information to your groups and communicate staff achievements and changes to stakeholders in a timely manner.
  • Work with Group Leaders to ensure staff are participating actively in professional service (engagement in scientific societies, workshop and conference organization, peer review, advisory board membership, etc.).
  • Advocate for and support internal and external recognition of staff achievements.  Ensure the Section’s external professional presence is strong.
  • Communicate funding/proposal opportunities to staff and support proposal development as appropriate (mentoring, proposal reviews, budget preparation, etc.).
  • Ensure that staff manage their research projects effectively to deliver results on scope, schedule, and budget while meeting scientific, technical, and business expectations. 
  • Effectively communicate the importance of protecting proprietary or sensitive information and complying with ORNL cybersecurity policies and guidelines.
  • Recognize and support the contributions and responsibilities of Group Leaders and Laboratory Space Managers to lab safety.


  • To section staff, for the quality and safety of their work environment and opportunity for professional growth.
  • To organization managers, for world-leading science and technology directions, safe effective, and compliant operations, ownership of assigned staff, facilities, and equipment, and the quality of products and services.
  • To customer, for the quality of products and service


  • Develop a vision and implement a strategy to pursue world-leading science and technology directions for the section.
  • Hold group leaders accountable for performance
  • Act to ensure safe and effective operations
  • Hire group leaders

Qualifications required

  • Requires a Ph.D. with a minimum of 12-year relevant experience or a M.S. with a minimum of 16-year experience or a B.S. with 20-years of experience.
  • Qualified candidates should have demonstrated experience in leading R&D teams
  • Other qualifications are section specific

Desired qualifications

  • Recognized leader in the field of fusion plasma physics with a broad understanding of the full range of challenges anticipated in the burning plasma regime in ITER and future devices
  • Capability to coordinate activities across multiple research groups towards a common goal
  • Ability to work with a broad range of research staff (both internal and external) and sponsors to develop a compelling, actionable research plan in fusion plasma physics

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Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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