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Keynote Address

Chris Bannochie SRNL 2-22-22 003.jpg
Dr. Chris Bannochie
From Dr. Quest to activist: My journey through science, activism, exploration, and leadership

We all start out with a dream, which can unfold in ways we may not imagine.  As a kid, I wanted to be Dr. Quest or Jacque Cousteau – wandering the world and understanding it through scientific exploration.  While my ten year old self knew on some level that I was gay, my focus since grade school was always on earning my Ph.D., and I didn’t see my sexual orientation as having anything to contribute to that objective.  It was not a matter of being in the closet, so much as it was a single minded obsession with school – nothing would deter or distract me.  Sure, I went to all the required formal dances in Prep School: Homecoming, the Regimental Dinner Dance, and the Military Ball (our version of prom), and was invited to Sadie Hawkins at an all-girls school. I began to travel, first six weeks in Ireland at Gormanston College and then a three week senior class trip to the United Kingdom and visiting relatives in Scotland.

But in college and graduate school I didn’t date while still being very social.  I expanded my travel, first spending five weeks in Europe with two friends after college, and then giving my first scientific paper in Canada at the North American Chemical Congress.  It was not until my postdoc that I felt free to meet someone and began dating Mary, a young resident in Pathology at Barnes Hospital, fluent in French, a gourmet cook, and gorgeous, but we broke up, and I knew I was looking for something else.

After my postdoc, I started at the Savannah River Laboratory, as it was then called.  Initially my work was based in the lab, but then I assumed the design of and oversaw the construction of a mobile rad lab in Chicago.  I loved the travel back and forth to the windy city, where I had spent time with cousins growing up.  It was in Boys Town that I went to my first gay bar and later danced with a guy.  This was what I was looking for.  The years that followed brought my formal coming out, dating, the start of my activism, moving to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the San Francisco Bay Area with my future husband, and a determination to make it easier for the next generation of scientists to be out at work.

This talk will explore the technical and personal journey that has taken me to 49 states, 51 countries, and seven continents, and from the lab to the corner office.  I currently lead a multi-disciplinary scientific and engineering team of 28 staff members, postdocs, visiting faculty, and interns studying the fundamental properties of energy and magnetic materials, as well as the development of radiofrequency heating technologies and materials to reduce energy consumption in manufacturing.

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