Michelle Buchanan

Women in STEM
Women in STEM
Michelle Buchanan

Specialty: Analytical Chemistry

Major Contributions:

Two patents dealing with chromatography

Fellow, American Chemical Society

Senior Technical Advisor to the Deputy Director for Science Programs in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science

Image Courtesy of ORNL

In the mid-1990s a police detective was stymied by a case where witnesses claimed to have seen a child victim in the car of a suspect but no fingerprint evidence of the child could be found in the vehicle. The detective went to the scientists at Oak Ridge National Lab, located in Tennessee, and a team was assembled. Dr. Michelle Buchanan began a project using mass spectrometry that came to a startling conclusion.

Due to the differences in the volatile chemicals on children’s hands, their fingerprints are different than adults causing them to stay on surfaces for a much shorter amount of time.  This breakthrough was just one of many that Buchanan has made during her career at ORNL.

Buchanan spent over 40 years working at the lab in varying capacities before transitioning from ORNL to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science in 2021 to serve in the role of Senior Technical Advisor to the Deputy Director for Science Programs.

While at Oak Ridge she led many labs and divisions, including initiating the Center for Structural Molecular Biology and serving as its director and spending over ten years as the Associate Laboratory Director for Physical Science. She then became Deputy for Science and Technology where she was responsible for overseeing ORNL’s extensive portfolios of research and development, spanning physical and materials sciences, energy and engineering sciences, computing and computational sciences, biological and environmental sciences, neutron sciences, and global security for the US Department of Energy as well as other sponsors.

Buchanan has co-authored over 150 scientific publications, holds two patents and was the editor of a book on Fourier transform mass spectrometry. She is a fellow of the American Chemical Society and in 2014 was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She has served on many advisory boards of universities including Boston University, the University of Tennessee, and Vanderbilt University.   Her work has garnered many awards including a three-time recipient of an ORNL Technical Achievement Award,  a two-time honoree for R&D Leadership from UT-Battelle, and in 2022 she was awarded the Roland F. Hirsch Award for Distinguished Service from the American Chemical Society.

Written by Angela Goad


Oak Ridge National Laboratory: The Case of the Vanishing Fingerprint

Michelle V Buchanan: US DOE

Senior Technical Advisor to the Deputy Director for Science Programs, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science

Michelle Buchanan leads efforts to solve our energy needs

See Also:

Fourier Transform Mass Spectrometry: Evolution, Innovation, and Application (ACS  Symposium Series)

ORNL researchers Buchanan, Liang, Mayes named AAAS fellows

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Wikipedia: Fourier Transform Spectroscopy

Wikipedia: Thermoelectric Generator