Staff at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility and the National Center for Computational Sciences awarded for their contributions to COVID-19 research

ORNL’s Gina Tourassi, Dan Jacobson, Tjerk Straatsma, and Bronson Messer were recognized with DOE Secretary’s Honor Awards. Image Credit: Carlos Jones, Genevieve Martin, and Jason Richards, ORNL

Thirty-two employees at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) were named among teams recognized by former DOE Secretary Dan Brouillette with Secretary’s Honor Awards as he completed his term.

The annual awards recognize the achievements of those who have gone above and beyond in fulfilling DOE’s mission and serving the nation. A new group of awards for 2020 reflect DOE responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

In letters introducing the awards, Brouillette wrote that these researchers and staff members “have surpassed the highest standards of excellence, demonstrated great knowledge and ability, and exhibited an exceptional commitment to service.”

ORNL employees were recognized for their contributions to a total of eight DOE team endeavors, with two teams whose goals enabled supercomputing research for COVID-19 at multiple DOE laboratories:

COVID-19 Insights Partnership Team, which includes ORNL computational systems biologist Daniel Jacobson and the director of the National Center for Computational Sciences (NCCS), Gina Tourassi. The COVID-19 Insights Partnership was a White House–led initiative to coordinate and share coronavirus-related research, data, and expertise across federal departments and agencies. The partnership created a framework for using DOE’s high-performance computing (HPC) and artificial intelligence (AI) resources to conduct COVID-19 research and analyze data from across the federal government. Members of this team led planning, interagency coordination, messaging, public announcement, technical execution, and technical analysis of data in support of the partnership.

High Performance Computing Resource Team, which includes the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF) Director of Science Bronson Messer, NCCS distinguished research scientist Tjerk Straatsma, and Tourassi. NCCS houses the OLCF, a DOE Office of Science User Facility located at ORNL. The High Performance Computing Resource Team facilitated the optimal mobilization of the nation’s supercomputing capabilities to meet the multiple challenges of the pandemic. This team rapidly organized an effective infrastructure for the selection of research projects and their assignment to supercomputing facilities. HPC modeling and simulation, combined with AI and other data-intensive applications, provided multiple invaluable insights into the virus and its interaction with human biology, with the potential to accelerate both drug discovery and vaccine development.

For a full list of the teams awarded, visit

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