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  1. Science and Technology Directorate
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  3. Exchanging Experts, Enhancing Lab Partnerships

Exchanging Experts, Enhancing Lab Partnerships

Release Date: April 23, 2024

Celebrating World Laboratory Day with an update on a new Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and Department of Energy subject matter expert swap that will advance more than two decades of shared research goals. Guest blog by Paul Strang, Director of S&T’s Office of National Laboratories (ONL).

A portrait of Paul Strang with the American flag in the background.
Paul Strang

S&T’s five national federal laboratories, along with the technical capabilities and experts within them, are essential to supporting the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s important mission. The labs are national assets that support the enduring research, development, testing and evaluation (RDT&E) needs of the Department. Beyond this in-house network, S&T also works with the 17 Department of Energy (DOE) National Laboratories as crucial partners, offering support and access to powerful auxiliary capabilities. For more than 20 years, S&T and DOE have been developing groundbreaking technologies together to meet the evolving requirements of protecting our homeland. 

This spring, ONL is coordinating the second annual interagency subject matter expert (SME) exchange, which pairs scientists from S&T’s labs with counterparts in DOE’s labs to collaborate on shared research interests. Together, these SMEs will embark on a project that lasts for one year or more, in an arrangement that includes both in-person and virtual collaboration. Last year, ONL piloted this initiative with two participants—one from S&T’s Chemical Security Analysis Center (CSAC) and another from DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL)—who are collaborating on an ongoing effort focused on technologies to detect, identify, and interdict synthetic opioids and other chemical threats, one that is making progress in real time.

CSAC’s Dr. Jerry Cabalo with Dr. Thomas Metz of PNNL at PNNL’s mass spectrometry laboratory.
CSAC’s Dr. Jerry Cabalo with Dr. Thomas Metz of PNNL at PNNL’s mass spectrometry laboratory. Photo credit: CSAC.

This year, along with continued participation from PNNL, additional S&T pairings will now be made with experts from other DOE labs, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory. The SME exchange initiative was developed to do just that—seed and grow research partnerships across agencies and among experts to advance homeland security solutions, all while providing maximum flexibility in how work is conducted.

Beyond the SME exchange program, which we hope to continue growing year-after-year, S&T and DOE lab researchers continue to work together in other ways, including assisting first responders in the fight against synthetic opioids. For instance, CSAC conducted a survey of field detection technologies to gauge their abilities to detect synthetic opioids. Our National Urban Security Technology Laboratory then used this work to collaborate with PNNL and technology manufacturers to expand these devices’ libraries to support opioid detection.

There are so many ways our S&T labs specialize in the applied science and RDT&E necessary to meet enduring needs. By facilitating collaboration between S&T and DOE lab experts in areas of mutual interest, we increase opportunities for new scientific pursuits to become force multipliers. And in ONL, we ensure that innovation and collaboration are the rule, and not the exception, across agencies and between labs.

I am excited to see what this new SME exchange partnership produces in the years ahead. The potential is endless when our nation’s best and brightest minds are on the case.  

Last Updated: 04/23/2024
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