NIDC manager Mitch Ferren announces retirement

Mitch Ferren and Karen Sikes

Mitch Ferren and Karen Sikes

Mitch Ferren, associate director of business operations at the National Isotope Development Center since 2011, will retire Dec. 31. Mitch’s career at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has spanned more than 45 years, 42 of those spent in isotope-related work.

Mitch, who holds a bachelor of science degree in nuclear engineering and an associate’s degree in engineering and chemical technology engineering, spent the early, 1970s-1980s years of his ORNL career processing isotopes at historic Isotope Circle, where pioneering isotope work was done.

Later in his career, he served as lead contract developer for the first Cf-252 Consortium Multi-Year Contract for sustained californium-252 production at ORNL. More recently, he led feedstock acquisition and contract negotiations that resulted in Ac-227 production at ORNL leading to the Food and Drug Administration-approved cancer drug Xofigo.

"The DOE IP and NIDC express its deepest appreciation for Mitch’s hard work, dedication, and countless contributions over the years. He has been a pillar in the international isotope community and will be greatly missed. We wish him all the best in his well-deserved retirement.said Dr. Jehanne Gillo, director of the DOE Isotope Program.

Mitch received the Secretary of Energy Achievement Award in 2016 for technical and negotiation support related to the acquisition of Iranian heavy water leading up to the signing of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, under which Iran agreed to eliminate or dramatically reduce enriched uranium stockpiles and gas centrifuges and enrich uranium only up to 3.67% for the next 15 years. The agreement – signed by Iran and the United States, Russia, China, Germany, France and the United Kingdom – was an attempt, after years of negotiation, to ensure Iran’s nuclear program would be peaceful.

The following year, Mitch was recognized for his technical support role in the discovery of element 117, tennessine.

Karen Sikes, NIDC’s associate director for production planning, will succeed Mitch as the NIDC director.

In her current role, Karen manages production planning of critical isotopes across the DOE IP facility network – including national labs and partner universities – to ensure their reliable and efficient distribution. She is responsible for monitoring and analyzing key isotope market segments and supply chains to aid DOE IP in making strategic program decisions.

Karen previously served as a senior engineer and manager of the advanced transportation group for a clean energy consulting firm, providing technical and analytical support to DOE, national labs, the Environmental Protection Agency and energy-related international agencies. In this role, she developed and helped deploy myriad tools and technologies to further the nation’s clean energy goals.

She holds a bachelor of science degree in biomedical engineering, a master of science degree in industrial engineering, and a master of business administration degree with a concentration in operations management.

Karen’s new position is effective Jan. 1.