Dr. Frank Roberto, recently retired from Idaho National Laboratory (INL), has been elected into the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), one of the most prestigious distinctions an engineer can receive.
Roberto is currently senior manager for process innovation at Newmont Corporation’s Malozemoff Technical Facility in Englewood, Colorado. He worked at INL from 1988 to 2012, and his affiliation with the lab continued until 2019.
Roberto was nominated to the academy for “advancing biotechnical applications for environmentally responsible mine production.”
The NAE is one of three academies affiliated with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, founded in 1863 to “marshal the energy and intellect of the nation’s critical thinkers to respond to policy challenges with science, engineering and medicine at their core.” Roberto was elected to the academy’s section on Earth Resources, which studies issues relevant to the supply, delivery and associated impacts of hydrocarbon, metallic and nonmetallic mineral resources and mineral and nonmineral energy resource systems.
In the nearly 25 years he spent at INL, Roberto progressed to the rank of Directorate Fellow, managing diverse research projects and technical teams in the biological sciences, specializing in microbiological techniques for metallurgical leaching (biomining). He participated on editorial boards of microbiology-related journals for professional societies, served on state and federal technical and scientific committees, and chaired the U.S. Department of Energy’s Biosafety Working Group within the Emergency Management Issues–Special Interest Group (EMI-SIG) Subcommittee on Consequence Assessment and Protective Actions (SCAPA). He also served as DOE’s liaison to the American Biological Safety Association. In 2018, he became a registered member of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Engineering.
“In the years I worked with Frank, I found him to have extraordinary insights into microbiology and metallurgy,” said Dr. Vicki Thompson, a longtime colleague and distinguished staff engineer in INL’s Biological and Chemical Processing Department. “I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this honor than he is.”
Each year, academy members vote on candidates whom they judge to have made outstanding contributions to engineering research, practices or education. Nominations are made confidentially by existing members and must include three recommendations. The ballot is set in December and the final vote for membership occurs during January.
In 2020, 87 members and 18 international members were voted into the NAE, bringing total membership to 2,309 and the number of international members to 281. Individuals in the newly elected class will be formally inducted during a ceremony at the NAE’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 4.
Roberto earned his doctorate in biochemistry (plant physiology emphasis) from the University of California, Riverside and performed postdoctoral research in molecular plant pathology with Dr. Tsune Kosuge at the University of California, Davis. He is the second engineer with a longtime INL association to have been voted into the NAE. Kathryn McCarthy, formerly of INL and now vice president for research and development at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, was elected in 2019.