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ORAU and ORCAS Workshop Explores Relationships Between Universities, Labs and DOE

Leaders from 50+ ORAU member universities have the chance to develop productive collaborations and learn about innovative research opportunities with the agency and its labs

March 4, 2008

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. –In conjunction with this week’s 63rd annual meeting of the Oak Ridge Associated Universities’ (ORAU) Council of Sponsoring Institutions, ORAU and the Oak Ridge Center for Advanced Studies (ORCAS) are hosting a workshop focused on relationships between universities, national laboratories and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The two-day workshop—being held today and tomorrow (Mar. 4 and 5) at the ORCAS facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)—explores opportunities for universities to meet the education and research needs of DOE and its laboratories. Case studies showing successful collaborations between universities and DOE laboratories, as well as opportunities for future collaborations and DOE extramural funding will also be highlighted.

“Key relationships between universities and DOE, and the national labs that DOE manages, are fundamental to increasing the quality and impact of our nation’s intellectual investment,” said Ron Townsend, ORAU president and CEO. “This workshop provides a unique opportunity for fostering the open communication necessary to ensure that these collaborative relationships are continued.”

On Tuesday, discussions began with former ORNL Director and current Executive Vice President for Battelle Laboratory Operations Dr. Jeff Wadsworth providing a detailed examination of how national laboratories, universities and industry interact with one another.

Wadsworth commented that the nation is facing a variety of issues such as health and life sciences; national/global security; energy, environment, and climate; research and development (R&D) investment; science and technology (S&T) education; and global competition. “I believe partnerships between labs and universities have been around since the inception of national research laboratories,” said Wadsworth. “There’s room to improve how we collaborate, but the relationships do exist and they’ve proved to be productive and essential to the future.”

Expanding with an academic perspective, University of Tennessee President Dr. John Petersen illustrated how crucial relationships with DOE are to the overall research initiatives of a university.

“What I’ve learned working with DOE is that if you look at national labs, they’re really strong in terms of facilities and equipment, and in contrast, universities are really strong in people, or untapped intellectual capital,” said Petersen. “If you can engage people with a common vision then there are some really exciting things that can be accomplished.”

Rounding out the end of the workshop’s first day were presentations from Bill Valdez, DOE director of workforce development for teachers and scientists, and Dr. Thomas Zacharia, who serves as both the ORNL associate laboratory director for computing and computational science and the vice president for science and technology at the University of Tennessee.

Valdez presented on how relationships between DOE and universities can have positive impacts not only on education but on workforce development as well.

Zacharia, along with Townsend, presented information on a unique ORAU-ORNL partnership that will provide for ORAU-sponsored grants for university faculty and student teams to perform research in scientific areas of discovery using ORNL’s High Performance Computing resources*.

The workshop will continue Wednesday with additional keynote speakers—specifically ORNL Director Tom Mason, and Dr. Hermann Grunder, director emeritus of Argonne and Jefferson Laboratory—and further discussions on collaborations between DOE laboratories and the university, as well as investing in “big” science and workforce development.

For more information, visit the annual meeting Web site.

Oak Ridge Center for Advanced Studies (ORCAS) was established in 2005 as a think-and-do consortium of leading research universities, government, industry and non-governmental organizations that focuses on critical issues with strong science and technology content. ORCAS works to leverage the intellectual capital inherent in Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the academic research community to address real-world problems in a timely manner.

*Note: A release detailing the ORAU-ORNL High Performance Computing Grants Program will be distributed at the end of the workshop on Wednesday, March 5.

ORAU provides innovative scientific and technical solutions to advance national priorities in science, education, security and health. Through specialized teams of experts, unique laboratory capabilities and access to a consortium of more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local and commercial customers to advance national priorities and serve the public interest. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

University of Tennessee President John Petersen speaking at ORAU/ORCAS workshop

During a March 4 ORAU/ORCAS-sponsored workshop, University of Tennessee President John Petersen spoke on how DOE relationships are crucial to the overall research initiatives of a university.
High-resolution version of photo

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