Dr. Blake A. Simmons grew up in Blair, Nebraska, a small town north of Omaha. He enlisted in the United States Navy out of high school, where he served as a Nuclear Propulsion Operator (Electricia's Mate) for six years, primarily on board the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson while stationed in Bremerton, WA. After leaving the Navy in 1994 with an honorable discharge as a Petty Officer, Second Class, he attended the University of Washington and obtained a B.S. in Chemical Engineering in 1997. He then attended graduate school at Tulane University after receiving a Louisiana Board of Regents Fellowship. He worked in the laboratory of Professor Vijay T. John, where the focus of his thesis work was the synthesis and characterization of templated nanomaterials. He graduated with a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Tulane in 2001.
Blake then joined Sandia National Laboratories (Livermore, CA) in 2001 as a Senior Member of the Technical Staff, serving as a member of the Materials Chemistry Department. He participated on and led a variety of projects, including the development of cleavable surfactants, enzyme engineering for biofuel cells, microfluidics, and the synthesis of silicate nanomaterials. He was promoted to Principal Member of the Technical Staff in 2004. He expanded his research portfolio to include the design, fabrication, integration, and testing of polymeric microfluidic devices for several lab-on-a-chip and Homeland Security applications, and continued to pursue opportunities in renewable energy. He was promoted to Manager of the Energy Systems Department in 2006. The primary focus of the department was the development of novel materials-based solutions to meet the nation's growing energy demands.
In 2007, he was one of the principal co-investigators of the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI, www.jbei.org), a $135M DOE funded project tasked with the development and realization of next-generation biofuels produced from non-food crops. He is currently serving as the Vice-President of the Deconstruction Division at JBEI, where he leads a team of 35 researchers working on advanced methods of liberating fermentable sugars from lignocellulosic biomass. He also manages the Biomass Science and Conversion Technology Department at Sandia. He has over 70 publications, book chapters, and patents. His work has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the KQED televised science program Quest.
School of Science and Engineering Outstanding Young Alumnus
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