U.S. Department of Energy

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Nancy Hess

Nancy Hess
(509) 371-6385
Principal Investigator

As Science Theme Lead, Dr. Hess leads development and implementation of a vision for Terrestrial and Subsurface Ecosystem science within EMSL. She identifies specific objectives/targets and guides the assembly of the needed to implement the vision. Dr. Hess has published more than 130 peer-reviewed journal articles on the application of molecular-level spectroscopic techniques -- X-ray absorption spectroscopy, neutron spectroscopy and diffraction, spatially resolved in situ Raman and time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopies -- to problems where determination of the local structure is important. She's also co-PI on a project stuyding subsurface carbon cycling funded by BER's Terrestrial and Ecosystem Science program. Dr. Hess oversees EMSL's Radiochemistry Annex, a resource designed to accelerate scientific discovery and deepen the understanding of the chemical fate and transport of radionuclides in terrestrial and subsurface ecosystems.


  • University of Washington, Ph.D. Mineral Physics (1990).
  • University of Arizona, M.S., Economic Geology (1986).
  • University of California, Davis, B.S., Geology (1981). 

Awards & Honors: 

  • 2010-2011: Chair of Los Alamos Neutron Science Center User Group (Member, 2008-09)
  • 2010-2001: Chair
  • 2009-2010: Vice-chair
  • 1990: John C. Jamieson Award for outstanding student contribution to high-pressure research.

Research Interests: 

The thrust of Dr. Hess' research is the application of molecular level spectroscopic techniques, such as X-ray absorption spectroscopy, neutron scattering and diffraction, and in situ Raman and time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopies, to problems where determination of the local structure is important. Currently she contributes to DOE/BES Hydrogen Storage program and has contributed to DOE/BES programs on radiation effects in ceramics, the optical properties of dielectric thin films, and the development of rare-earth based optical sensors. She has lead several DOE/ERSP programs on Tc chemistry in HighLevel Waste and the vadose zone and has contributed to several other ERSP programs at PNNL. She has participated in structural biology research on DNA repair proteins and environmental restoration characterization tasks including actinide speciation in geological environments and Hanford tank sludge and supernate. She is currently the chief scientist for EMSL's Geochemistry/Biogeochemistry and Sub Surface Science.

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