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ORAU now accepting applications for inaugural ORNL Challenge Program

Undergraduate students will help solve real-world science problems alongside Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists

November 10, 2015

ORNL Challenge Program

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—Applications are now being accepted for the inaugural Oak Ridge National Laboratory Challenge Program. Successful applicants will participate in a 10-week Summer Research Institute designed to give undergraduate juniors and seniors the opportunity to help solve real-world science problems by conducting research alongside world-leading scientists. The challenges have a direct connection to the research being conducted at ORNL in clean energy, materials sciences, neutron sciences, national security, supercomputing and computation. Participants are selected based on their ability to propose a solution to one of the research challenge questions.

The challenges for the 2016 program are as follows:

Challenge 1: Simulation and Design of Artificial Model Magnets
Controlling the emergent properties of quantum materials is one of the grand challenges for basic energy science. In order to analyze neutron scattering experiments on real magnetic materials, ORNL scientists are seeking original and creative approaches to simulate and design artificial magnets that will expose the emergent behavior of different types of materials.

Challenge 2: Distributed Energy and Microgrid Research
The future grid provides a critical platform for U.S. prosperity, competitiveness, and innovation in a global clean energy economy. It must deliver reliable, affordable, and clean electricity to consumers where they want it, when they want it, and how they want it. In support of grid modernization, ORNL is developing a platform that can be used to evaluate the performance and optimization of distributed energy sources for electrical energy conversion and storage attached to a microgrid. ORNL scientists are seeking creative, but plausible, research projects that would take advantage of this platform.

Administered for ORNL by ORAU, the Challenge program includes a weekly stipend, furnished housing and utilities for the duration of the program and travel assistance to and from Oak Ridge. Participants have the exceptional opportunity to conduct hands-on research under the direction of a scientist or engineer at ORNL. In addition to research and professional development, the program gives participants the opportunity to interact with other ORNL staff through attendance at research seminars, tours of laboratory research facilities and participation in other group activities on the ORNL campus.

Eligible applicants must be an undergraduate in their junior or senior year and in good standing at a regionally accredited U.S. college or university. Those interested in applying to the program must fill out a short application and upload their challenge solution through the ORAU Zintellect application system. For an in-depth technical description of each challenge project and other application details, visit the ORNL Challenge Program website at Challenge proposals should be formatted using the template listed on the application page. Incomplete proposals may not be considered.

The application window closes at 11:59 p.m. on January 15, 2016.

For other questions regarding the ORNL Challenge Program, please contact Nicie Murphy at , or email For questions regarding ORAU’s Zintellect system, please email

ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit

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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