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ORAU Member Institutions Explore Possibilities of Partnering with ORNL’s World-Class Facilities, Staff

March 3, 2009

University Researchers Considered “Vital to Ensuring Next Generation of Scientists and Engineers”

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—During its 64th Annual Meeting of the Council of Sponsoring Institutions, Oak Ridge Associated Universities’ (ORAU) hosted a two-day workshop with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) where ORAU member institutions learned of opportunities to partner and build relationships with the national lab. The meeting highlighted ways in which ORNL’s modernization efforts have led to enhanced opportunities for collaboration, especially at the university level.

Throughout the workshop, representatives from both ORAU and ORNL outlined a variety of opportunities available to interested students and faculty. For example, attendees heard of how an ORNL supercomputer was used to conduct the largest, fastest and most detailed earthquake simulation on the San Andreas Fault. Another researcher–also using the lab’s supercomputing capabilities–was able to create vegetation models for examining global, dynamic carbon dioxide exploration.

Attendees of ORAU’s 64th Annual Meeting of the Council of Sponsoring Institutions

Attendees of ORAU’s 64th Annual Meeting of the Council of Sponsoring Institutions toured Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s High Performance Computing Facilities (pictured here in the EVEREST Room–Exploratory Visualization Environment for REsearch in Science and Technology), where they learned of the programs and technology available for their institutions’ students and faculty to conduct research.

Though the featured programs varied, each presenter echoed the same key message: university researchers and administrators play a vital role in ensuring the next generation of scientists and engineers.

“I can’t find a single program of ORNL’s where university partnerships don’t play a significant role,” said Dr. James Roberto, ORNL’s deputy director for science and technology.

Last year alone, ORAU supported more than 5,000 students and faculty members who took part in programs that either provided further direction for their careers or encouraged them to pursue degrees in areas of critical national need. Of that figure, nearly one fifth of ORAU’s science education program participants were placed with ORNL.

Bar graph depicting FY08 participants by category

ORAU Science Education Programs

During FY08, ORAU administered $124 million in expenditures for educational initiatives and educational opportunities for 5,237 students, faculty, and postdoctoral participants.

“We want to arm our sponsoring institutions with the information they need to serve as ambassadors for ORAU’s science education programs, including those that are administered through ORNL and others that also are critical to the U.S. Department of Energy mission,” said ORAU President Homer Fisher. “We hope that each university representative will return to their respective campuses and encourage their best and brightest students to participate in these programs.”

As part of the workshop, council members toured ORNL’s high performance computing facilities where they learned of the lab’s two petaflop supercomputers nicknamed “Jaguar” and “Krakan.” The superior computational capabilities offered by these two supercomputers serve as the foundation of ORNL’s commitment to provide the world’s most powerful open resource for scientific computing.

As a prime example of ORAU and ORNL’ partnership for university interactions with the lab, the two organizations made a joint announcement this past week naming four winners as the first recipients of the ORAU/ORNL High Performance Computing Grants competition. The grants, open to ORAU member institutions, allow faculty and student teams the opportunity to participate in research with the benefit of these computing resources and staff at ORNL.

One of the winners who attended the workshop, Associate Professor Yongmei Wang from the University of Memphis, commented that access to ORNL’s supercomputers and expertise will help catapult her gene delivery research.

In addition to the high performance computing facilities, council members also toured other ORNL user facilities such as the Spallation Neutron Source–the world's most intense, pulsed accelerator-based neutron source–and the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, a collaborative, nanoscience user-research facility for the synthesis, characterization and simulation of nanoscale materials.

Students and faculty can become eligible to conduct research at one of ORNL’s user facilities by applying through a competitive bid process where each proposal is internally and externally peer reviewed.

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).

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