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Article | Materials Manufacturing Innovation Center

Get to Know MMIC Director Chris Heckle

Learn more about Chris Heckle and her vision for the Materials Manufacturing Innovation Center.

Chris Heckle joined Argonne in November 2022 as the first director of the Materials Manufacturing Innovation Center (MMIC) after a 20-plus year career at Corning. Read on to learn more about her background and her view of the MMIC’s future.

What most excites you about your new role?

The first part of my answer is that I’m very passionate about bringing more good jobs into this country and manufacturing jobs are good jobs. I have a background in materials, so working in the MMIC is a natural fit for my technical background and also fits my desire to help bring innovations to fruition so that companies can grow and hire more people.

The second part is a bit more selfish. I’m a person who enjoys a steep learning curve. My father was in the U.S. Army and we moved every three years or so. I think I got used to transitions and quickly adapting to new things. I’m really enjoying learning about the people and capabilities at Argonne. Of course I knew Argonne was a powerhouse, but to have an inside seat is really thrilling!

How will you bring your background to leading the MMIC?

I started my professional life as a bench scientist working to improve the UV transmission of high purity fused silica glass for the semiconductor industry. From there, I began leading projects, supervising other scientists and gaining experience in other industries. As I became more senior, I grew more interested in applying my creativity to questions of strategy and vision. I enjoy working to craft a vision and then set on the execution path to realize it.  I haven’t worked as a scientist in a while, but I have a deep appreciation for technology and the village it takes to innovate. It excites me to help bring new science to application and leading the MMIC will be very rewarding as we see increased take of Argonne’s tech into companies.

What are your first priorities?

MMIC is in really good shape, thanks to the leadership of Aaron Fluitt during his time as interim director. Working closely with the core team, the extended team and the whole Argonne community, I plan to expand the vision and lay out a multi-year roadmap. With the reopening of many organizations post-COVID, we can expect a return to outreach to build our network of partners.

What’s the most surprising thing about Argonne and its MMIC?

The first thing that I’m so grateful for is the overwhelming support from everyone I’ve met here to see MMIC be successful. Many people are looking forward to collaborating to bring new partnerships into the lab to help get our technology out. Additionally, I did not expect the quality of the scale-up capabilities resident in the Materials Engineering Research Facility. The flexibility and utility of the labs and high bay space provide a wonderful entry point for companies. It feels comfortable to them and is helpful as a door to the whole lab.

What do you see as the key needs of the materials manufacturing industry?

We all know the importance of sustainability, workforce development, and diversity, inclusion, equity, and accessibility across all industries. I think the additional challenge for materials companies stems from being component suppliers. Taking raw materials in one door and sending out components through another door has historically been very hand-o-matic” and reliant on the longevity of skilled employees. Argonne has so much technology to offer in process understanding and control. I think this is a great area for outreach and collaboration as well as more well-known concerns.

Have an idea or question for the MMIC? Contact us at manufacturing@​anl.​gov.