Student works at SNS at ORNL

Key Collaboration with ORNL Fuels Success

Collaborations with universities play a key role at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) by connecting the lab with cutting-edge faculty who help push the frontiers of research and provide students an opportunity to blossom into scientists.

Of all the universities working with ORNL, none are as closely connected as the University of Tennessee. With ORNL’s main campus just 30 miles from UT—and with some lab spaces much closer—ORNL and UT have been partners in growth for decades.

The two have seen a number of shared successes in the last 12 years or so alone, including the creation of the joint UT-ORNL Governor’s Chairs program, an interdisciplinary graduate program that is now one of UT’s largest, a number of other joint faculty positions, and hundreds of research opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students.

“Holding a joint appointment allows me to help develop students on the university side while pursuing high-level research at ORNL,” said David Mandrus, UT’s Jerry and Kay Henry Endowed Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. “In turn, being able to do cutting-edge research at ORNL helps me bring new ideas and methodology to the university, which helps students grow.”

Nuclear science is one obvious area where each institution benefits from the other—with ORNL’s expertise known around the world and UT’s nuclear engineering department being among the most highly rated in the US—but it’s certainly not the only area.

A number of the world’s most pressing needs and areas of innovation are being addressed, including:

Advanced Manufacturing and Materials

Numerous UT faculty and ORNL staff members and facilities are dedicated to this particular thrust that is transforming East Tennessee into a regional and national center of expertise, involving seven of the aforementioned Governor’s Chairs

High-end Supercomputing

With the world’s fastest computer at ORNL and several pioneers of computing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning on UT’s faculty, including Professor Lynne Parker, who has maintained her link to UT while serving as associate director for artificial intelligence for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Distinguished Professor Jack Dongarra, UT and ORNL are helping push the boundaries of what is possible

Bio-engineering and Bioenergy

Experts including UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair Art Ragauskas work on a wide variety of alternative energy topics, including biofuels, the membranes they are stored in, fuel cells, how they are used, and how they connect to the grid


Vehicles on the land, sea, and in the sky are undergoing vast improvements in performance, safety, and fuel economy thanks to the researchers shared by the two.

It’s research that impacts the lives of the region and beyond, for more than 75 years and counting.