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ORNL names Langan as lab director for Biological and Environmental Systems Science

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Paul Langan will join the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the spring as associate laboratory director for the Biological and Environmental Systems Science Directorate.

He will lead the directorate’s convergence research in biology, ecology, engineering, data discovery, physical sciences and computing that advances U.S. competitiveness in the global bioeconomy and Earth system sustainability. This diverse research portfolio encompasses efforts to develop renewable energy solutions, improve Earth system models and push the frontiers of systems and synthetic biology. Langan will succeed Stan Wullschleger, who will retire in 2023 after 33 years at ORNL.

“This directorate is positioned to be at the forefront of tackling some of the most important challenges we face over the next decade, thanks to Stan’s leadership and the contributions of many talented staff members,” Langan said. “One thing that I’ve enjoyed doing over the years is bringing together technical and scientific staff from different disciplines to solve complex problems. I look forward to continuing this multidisciplinary approach, so that together we can deliver further research solutions in biological and environmental systems science that will improve our future.”

Langan returns to ORNL after nearly two years as director general of the Institute Laue Langevin, or ILL, in Grenoble, France — the premier center for neutron science and technology in Europe. As director general, he has worked to help forge connections among research, higher education and industry that accelerate technical breakthroughs. He also partnered with the molecular biology, synchrotron and structural biology facilities co-located with ILL on Grenoble’s European Photon and Neutron science campus to provide researchers with coordinated access to some of the most advanced experimental platforms for bioscience research.

He previously held several leadership roles at ORNL. After arriving as a senior scientist in 2011, he directed the Center for Structural Molecular Biology and served as founding director of the Biology and Soft Matter Division within the Neutron Sciences Directorate, building collaborations across the lab in both leadership roles. He became associate lab director for neutron sciences in 2015 and oversaw the directorate’s growth for six years before joining ILL.

“With his unique combination of demonstrated impact as a scientist, leadership of multidisciplinary teams, operation of complex facilities and engagement with diverse stakeholders from the public and private sectors, Paul is well positioned to help sustain the lab’s record of accomplishment in biological and environmental science,” ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia said.

Langan’s research includes development and use of new methods to address key structural biology challenges and to quantify processes important for converting biomass into bioproducts. He received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Edinburgh University and his doctorate from the physics department of Keele University.

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