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Argonne National Laboratory

Argonne Voices

Oral histories from the people behind our science.

For 75 years, Argonne National Laboratory has accelerated the science and technology that drive U.S. security and prosperity. To celebrate, we’re capturing the stories of the people who’ve made it happen. This is Argonne Voices.

Scroll down to hear a collection of compelling conversations that highlight the people behind our science and explores the laboratory’s rich history of invention and discovery. Check back regularly for new audio stories.

Climate Change:
Modeling for Resilience

Valerie Taylor and Cristina Negri are both division directors at Argonne—Mathematics and Computer Science for Valerie; Environmental Science for Cristina.

Their respective fields of expertise converge at the intersection of computing and climate change. With supercomputers and artificial intelligence, Valerie’s mathematicians help Cristina’s environmental scientists build climate change models that allow communities to respond faster and adapt smarter. At the same time, Valerie and Cristina’s teams also join forces to pursue environmental justice for all. Here’s part of their climate conversation.

Unraveling the Cosmos:
The South Pole Telescope

Physicists Lindsey Bleem and Clarence Chang have gone where few have ever gone: The South Pole. Why? Because it’s the home of the massive and powerful South Pole Telescope, which uses detectors developed and manufactured at Argonne. With this telescope, Lindsey and Clarence study the origin of our universe by observing something called the cosmic microwave background. Learn more about their research and hear surprising facts about the South Pole.

Bringing Discoveries to Light:
The Advanced Photon Source

After 25 years in operation, Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source—or the APSis undergoing a massive upgrade that will make its ultrabright X-ray light even brighter and enable scientific innovations we cannot yet imagine. Here’s a conversation between two of the brains behind the original APS: Glenn Decker, the Associate Project Manager of the APS Upgrade, and John Galayda, who guided construction of the original APS in the mid-90s.

Fundamental Excitement:
The Search for the Higgs Boson

2012 was a big year in the world of physics. At the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, scientists finally discovered what they had spent half a century searching for: the Higgs boson.

The ATLAS experiment, partially built at Argonne, played a crucial role in this achievement. As did Rik Yoshida, director of the lab’s High Energy Physics division. In this conversation, Rik and assistant physicist Walter Hopkins reminisce about this major achievement, and they answer two big questions: What is the Higgs particle? And why does it matter?

Learn more about the Higgs boson discovery.  

Embracing the Spectrum:
Inclusivity at Work

Carissa Holohan and Pete Friedman can tell you all about supercomputers and enterprise architecture. But they’re just as passionate about making sure Argonne is a place where everyone feels like they belong.

Listen to Carissa and Pete, co-chairs of Spectrum – the lab’s organization for LGBTQIA-plus employees and their allies – as they tell their personal stories and reflect on diversity and inclusion at Argonne.

Learn more about the work of Spectrum.

She Can STEM:
From Nuclear Engineering to Cybersecurity

J’Tia Hart is a nuclear engineer and the program initiator for Women in Science and Technology – also known as WIST – which is one of the lab’s many employee resource groups. Her good friend Amanda Joyce is a cybersecurity expert who runs the Department of Energy’s annual CyberForce Competition. Together, they’ve battled through gender discrimination and personal health challenges, inspiring young women to follow in their footsteps.

Learn more about the CyberForce Competition.

Lessons in Leadership:
Building a Diverse and Inclusive Culture

This fall, the first group of Walter Massey Fellows will walk through the laboratory doors. The fellowship’s namesake, Dr. Walter E. Massey, became the lab’s first African American director in the early 1980s. Here, he speaks with the current director, Paul Kearns, about leadership, building a diverse and inclusive workplace, and a lesson involving cheesecake.

Learn more about the Walter Massey Fellowship.

Shining a Light on COVID-19:
Argonne’s Role in Vaccine Development

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, scientists produced effective vaccines in record time – thanks in part to research conducted nearly a decade ago at Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source (APS).

Jason McLellan, a structural biologist, has conducted research at the APS for years studying the protein structures of different viruses. In conversation with Bob Fischetti, Life Sciences Advisor at the APS, Jason explains the nature of his research that laid the groundwork for the development of life-saving COVID-19 vaccines.

Learn more about the foundational role the APS played in the development of COVID-19 vaccines.

Passing the Torch:
Argonne’s Scientific Glassblowers

So much of the research that happens at Argonne would be impossible without our scientific glassblowing shop. Joseph Gregar spent four decades creating custom, one-of-a-kind glass instruments for lab experimentation before passing the torch – literally – to Kevin Moeller, Argonne’s current scientific glassblower.

P.S. Curious about the Large Area Picosecond Photodetector (LAPPD) collaboration mentioned in this story? Learn more here.

Driving Innovation:
Battery Scientists Reflect on Breakthrough

Did you know the battery technology in most of today’s electric cars was developed at Argonne? Michael Thackeray and Khalil Amine are two of the brains behind the revolutionary lithium-ion battery with a nickel-manganese-cobalt –or NMC –cathode. They share an immigrant background, a passion for clean energy, and a deep appreciation for Argonne’s groundbreaking battery science program.

The Next Generation:
Mentoring Scientific Leaders

For every Argonne scientist, training the next generation is one of the most important things he or she does. And at the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research –known as JCESR –mentors abound. Here, materials scientist Lynn Trahey talks with her longtime mentor, JCESR director George Crabtree.

A Family Affair:
Three Generations at Argonne

Mary Kay is a lead operator and PA announcer known as The Voice of Argonne.” Michael defends the lab’s computers against cyberattacks. Their jobs couldn’t be more different. But as mother and son, they’re in this together. Here are Michael and Mary Kay Skwarek, reflecting on life as an Argonne family.

Picture a Physicist:
Two Paths Diverged

Twenty two years ago, Kawtar Hafidi joined Argonne as a nuclear physicist. She worked her way up to become Argonne’s first woman Associate Lab Director, as leader of Physical Sciences and Engineering. Katie Yurkewicz also started as a nuclear physicist, but pivoted to a science communications career. After 13 years at another national lab, she came to Argonne in 2018 and is Head of Scientific and Technical Communications. Here are Kawtar and Katie in conversation. 

Learn more about the medical isotopes mentioned in this story.

Peaceful Power:
Reducing Nuclear Proliferation Risk

Argonne was founded with a mission to develop peaceful uses for nuclear energy. Today, John Stevens, a nuclear reactor physicist, and Laura Jamison, a materials scientist and nuclear engineer, are at the forefront of a program that works to reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation. Friends and colleagues, they came together to talk about nuclear science, fuel plates, and one memorable sushi dinner.

Learn more about the Reduced Enrichment for Research and Test Reactors Program.


Executive Producer: JOHNATHON BRIGGS
Graphic Design and Video Production: ARGONNE CREATIVE SERVICES


The Lab would like to extend a special thank you to our participants for sharing their lived experiences with us. We also want to thank our Argonne Voices committee for leading this project:

  • Jeff Arena
  • Kent Bostick
  • Johnathon Briggs
  • Andrew Castiglioni
  • Lynn Hoff
  • Beth Schlesinger