Idaho National Laboratory selects new deputy laboratory director, chief research officer

May 21, 2024

By INL Media Relations

Todd Combs, a highly respected leader and seasoned national laboratory expert, was selected this week as Idaho National Laboratory’s next deputy laboratory director for science and technology and chief research officer. Combs replaces Marianne Walck, who left INL earlier this year to become the laboratory director at the National Energy Technology Laboratory. Combs’ hiring follows an extensive nationwide search. He will begin his new role June 3.

Since 2017, Combs has been INL’s associate laboratory director for the Energy and Environment Science and Technology directorate, which oversees a broad clean energy research and development portfolio. Under his leadership, the directorate made measurable progress in several initiatives vital to INL’s mission.

His accomplishments include laying out a strategic vision for the nation’s integrated energy systems initiative, standing up a new INL initiative in advanced manufacturing for harsh environments, and elevating the lab’s leading role in biofuels research and development. He also oversaw the establishment of the Energy Technology Proving Ground that will soon validate industrial hydrogen technology at commercial scale, develop new designs and controls for integrated energy systems and leverage the contributions from nuclear energy to enhance clean energy production.

In an announcement to INL employees, Laboratory Director John Wagner noted that other important areas grew under Combs’ leadership, including substantial progress in research involving critical minerals, electric vehicle batteries, charging infrastructure and digital engineering. The directorate also increased its business volume by 50% and doubled its publication numbers while attracting a top-notch leadership team and internationally recognized researchers.

Todd Combs.

“Todd’s deep understanding of INL’s mission space and operations, clear and compelling vision for the future of research at INL, along with his extensive experience at other laboratories and in the U.S. Air Force, made him an ideal candidate for the deputy laboratory director position,” Wagner said.

Combs grew up in Red Hook, New York, and graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point. He spent 14 and a half years in active Air Force duty and more than 12 years in the reserves. Combs worked at the Pentagon, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and at the headquarters of Air Combat Command and Air Force Reserve Command, where he advised U.S. Air Force leadership.

Combs also held leadership positions at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois before coming to INL seven years ago.

Wagner said Combs will play a vital role in INL’s efforts to substantially advance the nation’s clean energy and national security goals over the next decade, including demonstrating the first new nuclear reactors on the INL desert Site in half a century, building out and opening the Energy Technology Proving Ground, and increasing the security and resiliency of the nation’s critical infrastructure.

“Todd’s experience and expertise will further elevate our research eminence and continue to strengthen our recognition and position within the U.S. Department of Energy complex and broader scientific communities,” Wagner said.

Combs and his wife, Laura, live in Idaho Falls with their three children.


Abby Todd, 208-604-2229, [email protected]
Sarah Neumann, 208-520-1651, [email protected]


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About Idaho National Laboratory

Battelle Energy Alliance manages INL for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. INL is the nation’s center for nuclear energy research and development, celebrating 75 years of scientific innovations in 2024. The laboratory performs research in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and the environment. 

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Posted May 21, 2024

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