Control Systems Engineer Honoured with Lifetime Achievement Award

Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Karen White was recently honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Conference on Accelerator and Large Experimental Physics Control Systems (ICALEPCS) for her pioneering work over the past two decades in developing control systems for physics facilities.

White, who manages the controls infrastructure for ORNL’s Neutron Science Directorate, received the award at the biennial ICALEPCS conference held in October in Cape Town, South Africa. The award recognises individuals who have made exceptional, invaluable, and lasting contributions to the field of control systems for large experimental physics facilities like particle accelerators and neutron sources.

ORNL engineer Karen White honored with  ICALEPCS Lifetime Achievement Award, Carlos Jones/ORNL,U.S. Dept. of Energy

“For more than 20 years, I’ve had the privilege to help organise ICALEPCS conferences to provide a forum for collaborative control systems development and promote standardisation of hardware and software,” said White. “We’ve done so by connecting controls engineers worldwide to share ideas and document progress on rapidly changing technologies.”

White has been at the forefront of developing accelerator controls using the Experimental Physics and Industrial Control System (EPICS) software framework. EPICS provides a toolkit that enables control over a wide variety of systems at physics facilities globally, including ORNL’s Spallation Neutron Source.

Control systems include components like processors, interfaces, networks, system and application software, and databases. They are critical to operating complex accelerators and experiments in facilities like ORNL. More widely these control systems are becoming ever more critical in labs around the world with the rise of automation.

“Karen is well known throughout the accelerators and large experimental physics control systems community. Over the course of her distinguished career, she has been an inspirational and guiding force, thoughtful mentor, outstanding leader, exemplary manager and thoughtful colleague” said Andy Goetz, ICALEPCS executive committee chair.

Equally notable is White’s commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion in the field. “ICALEPCS has provided me a platform to facilitate diversity by connecting with and mentoring students and young engineers,” she said. “I now consider my role in supporting women and minority participation in STEM careers just as important as my technical work.”

Her community engagement in eastern Tennessee also reflects her character and drive to positively impact people’s lives. White has mentored high school girls in ORNL’s “Women in Neutron Science” program, coached college hopefuls in Tennessee’s “tnAchieves” program, and served on the board of an organisation supporting those with intellectual disabilities.

Staff Writer

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