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Rachel Slaybaugh to Lead Berkeley Lab’s Cyclotron Road

Nuclear engineer and former ARPA-E program director takes the helm at the Lab’s division for entrepreneurial scientists

The Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has named Rachel Slaybaugh, associate professor of nuclear engineering at UC Berkeley, to lead Berkeley Lab’s Cyclotron Road Division. The announcement follows an international search.

photo of Rachel Slaybaugh

Rachel Slaybaugh

Until recently, Slaybaugh served as a program director at DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), whose mission is to advance high-potential and high-impact energy technologies. She led programs supporting research in advanced nuclear fission reactors, agriculture technologies, and sensing and data analytics for four years, from 2017 through 2020.

“The Cyclotron Road Division Director needs to have a deep scientific understanding as well as a great discernment of what are game-changing technology ideas, how to support them, and what it requires to take a very early-stage idea to market,” said Ravi Prasher, Berkeley Lab’s director for the Energy Technologies Area. “Rachel’s strong research background at UC Berkeley and her program leadership experience at ARPA-E make her exceedingly qualified to lead Cyclotron Road.”

Since 2015, Cyclotron Road, a division of Berkeley Lab’s Energy Technologies Area, has supported leading entrepreneurial scientists as they develop globally impactful and commercially viable technology products through its fellowship program, which is operated in partnership with Activate, a nonprofit organization. Each year, through the fellowship program, it recruits a cohort of innovators who spend two years developing technologies that transform energy- and resource-intensive industries. These innovators “embed” at Berkeley Lab with access to state-of-the-art facilities and world-renowned scientists both at Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley, and they also participate in a program, co-managed with Activate, of intensive mentorship, professional development, and networking.

Slaybaugh’s key priorities will include annual recruitment of top-notch entrepreneurial scientists and engineers; development of funding, training, mentorship, and networking for future fellowship program cohorts; and expansion of the Cyclotron Road Division to include other entrepreneurial research and development initiatives. Slaybaugh’s ties to UC Berkeley, including the Berkeley Institute for Data Science, the Applied Science and Technology program, and the Department of Nuclear Engineering, where she will continue in her role as an associate professor, put her in a unique position to further facilitate collaborative research activities between the Cyclotron Road Division and UC Berkeley.

Slaybaugh brings together a highly regarded nuclear engineering and supercomputing research background with her exceptional experience as an undergraduate and graduate teacher and mentor. “I have been following Cyclotron Road since it started; what an impressive program,” she said. “I am excited by the opportunity to lead the Cyclotron Road Division as the fellowship program deepens its impact and the division looks to expand its mission. I’m looking forward to getting started and joining Berkeley Lab.”

Slaybaugh completed her undergraduate degree at Pennsylvania State University and her master’s and doctorate degrees in nuclear engineering and engineering physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research has centered around numerical methods for neutral particle transport and applications in reactor design, shielding, and nuclear security and nonproliferation.

To date, innovators embedded at Cyclotron Road have collaborated with more than 60 Berkeley Lab scientists, and the organizations they have founded have raised more than $190 million in follow-on funding, hired more than 235 employees, and introduced new products across industries.

“Berkeley Lab is proud to be the headquarters for Cyclotron Road, which brings together the brightest innovators with cutting-edge capabilities and mentorship at the Lab and UC Berkeley,” said Berkeley Lab Deputy Director for Research Horst Simon. “We strive to develop science and technology solutions for the world, and Cyclotron Road enables us to succeed in that mission. Through Cyclotron Road we are making a transformative impact on the most energy- and resource-intensive industries on the planet.”

Cyclotron Road has supported 65 innovators since 2015, including two dozen scientists and engineers in active cohorts, who are working on technological solutions ranging from replacing petroleum-derived plastic to pioneering new exploration technologies that can unlock development of geothermal energy resources to turning food waste into bio-based chemicals for manufacturing.

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Founded in 1931 on the belief that the biggest scientific challenges are best addressed by teams, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and its scientists have been recognized with 14 Nobel Prizes. Today, Berkeley Lab researchers develop sustainable energy and environmental solutions, create useful new materials, advance the frontiers of computing, and probe the mysteries of life, matter, and the universe. Scientists from around the world rely on the Lab’s facilities for their own discovery science. Berkeley Lab is a multiprogram national laboratory, managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit energy.gov/science.

Media contact: Laurel Kellner, [email protected]