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Frequently Asked Questions

1. My mentor has told me that I have been selected for an appointment. When will I receive notification from ORAU?
ORAU will send an appointment letter once authorization is received and the funding for the appointment is in place. See Start of Appointment for more information. Your appointment is not guaranteed until ORAU issues your official appointment letter.

2. Can I move before I receive my appointment letter?
We strongly recommend against this. Your appointment is not guaranteed until ORAU issues your appointment letter. If you are in a program which allows reimbursement for relocation costs, no costs will be reimbursed if incurred before the date indicated on your appointment letter.

3. Can I change the start date of my appointment?
Some programs have set start and end dates while other programs offer flexible start and end dates. Check with your ORAU program coordinator for the specifics of your program. Please notify ORAU immediately if your expected start date is different from what is specified in your appointment letter.

4. I need to end my appointment early. What should I do?
You should immediately notify your mentor and the ORAU program coordinator of your new end date. ORAU will notify you of any paperwork that needs to be completed before your final payment will be released. See End of Appointment for more information.

5. What acknowledgement do I need to put on my posters and publications?
All published reports, journal articles, or professional presentations that rely on the activities conducted during your participation should carry an acknowledgment such as: “This project was supported in part by an appointment to the Science Education Programs at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, administered by ORAU through the U.S. Department of Energy Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education.” Be sure to check with your ORAU program coordinator as some programs require specific acknowledgement statements.

6. How many days of leave do I have?
Employee participants, those in the postgraduate research programs or the Laboratory Technology program, should refer to their benefits document received in their offer packet.

Non-employee participants do not earn annual or medical leave. Only certain programs permit time off – it’s best to check with the ORAU program coordinator. All absences must be approved in advance by your mentor and your ORAU program coordinator.

Participants should not be present at ORNL on ORNL holidays. These do not count against personal days, nor will they result in a decrease in stipend. Some programs may permit additional time off on a case-by-case basis as an unpaid absence. Extended time off for serious illness, emergencies, etc., will be unpaid and will require mentor and ORAU program coordinator approval. You must notify ORAU in advance of any unpaid absences.

7. It’s snowing! Do I have to report to ORNL?
You should not report to ORNL when the facility is closed for weather, holidays, emergencies, etc. Such closures will not affect your stipend. You should have an alternate way to contact your mentor for guidance as to whether to report to ORNL.

8. It’s February. Why haven’t I received a 1099 form from ORAU?
Since most ORNL participants are not employees or contractors (and receive stipends, not wages), they do not receive W-2 or 1099 forms. We do send a Statement of Payments that you may use in preparing your tax return. Some foreign nationals, depending upon their tax treaty status, will receive 1042-S forms from ORAU. For more information on the tax implications of stipends, please see Payment Information.

It is important to notify ORAU of any changes to your mailing address, even after your appointment has ended, so that you will receive this information.

9. Can you tell me how much funding is left in my travel budget?
No. ORAU does not track funding for travel separate from other appointment funds. We can, upon request, let you know how much you have already spent on travel. All travel expenditures, regardless of budgeted amounts, must be approved by your mentor.

10. Can I defer payments on my student loans while I am a participant in the ORAU program?
You may be able to defer your student loan payments since you are a participant in an educational program. Please contact your lender to obtain the necessary forms, and send them to your ORAU program coordinator. We will verify your appointment for the lender.

11. Do I qualify for student loan forgiveness?
You may be able to defer your student loan payments since you are a participant in an educational program. Please contact your lender to obtain the necessary forms, and send them to your ORAU program coordinator. We will verify your appointment for the lender.

12. What should I do to change my banking information?
You will need to fill out a new Authorization Agreement for EFT and submit it to your ORAU program coordinator.

13. Can I be reimbursed for printing posters or other materials?
All printing must be done through ORNL and cannot be reimbursed by ORAU. If additional copies of printed materials are needed while on travel status, you must contact ORAU Travel for specific procedures that must be followed.

14. I won first place in a conference poster session, and was awarded a $100 cash prize! Can I keep the money?
In most cases, yes, you may accept awards and prizes. However this may be different for foreign nationals depending on immigration visa type.

15. Can I serve my appointment from home?
All appointments must be served at ORNL or an ORNL-approved facility. Faculty members participating in the Higher Education Research Experience program may participate at their respective universities with mentor approval.

16. I don’t see the answer to my question here, who can I contact?
Every program has a coordinator who can answer your questions. If you are at ORNL, visit our offices in building 4500N, room H-003 during normal business hours. If you are not at ORNL, contact us at

ORNL Faculty Researcher Jennifer Mosher

Jennifer Mosher

Biology, Faculty
Marshall University

“Along with my team, I used glass vessels known as bioreactors to examine how subsurface microbial communities react to changes in the chemical composition of groundwater. We pumped non-contaminated groundwater into several reactors, allowing the microbial community to develop. Then, we introduced filtered groundwater to the process from a distant well with high levels of nitrate, a naturally occurring element that can be toxic in high doses and it also of concern in global carbon cycles.”


“The first two weeks were spent assembling the bioreactors and ensuring all lines were gas tight and contaminant free. The remainder of the time was spent running the experiments, sampling the bioreactors for microbial and biochemical parameters and performing routine maintenance on the reactors. No two days were the same, which is why I love science.”


“I’ve always been fascinated with science and nature, and I still am curious as to how things work. Once I established my own laboratory, I wanted to return to ORNL to reestablish connections with scientists at the lab and build new collaborations for current and future projects, which I believe I did. I envision coming back to the lab for many summers to come. There’s so much to learn.”

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