Why is the ORNL Challenge Program so unique?

Competitive Features of the ORNL Challenge Program

The winning candidates of the Challenge Program will be invited to visit ORNL during summer 2016 term to conduct research with an ORNL mentor on their solution proposal. Some of the highlights of the program incentives are:

  • A 10-week paid internship at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which is DOE’s largest multi-program science and energy laboratory.
  • Program participation dates: June 6, 2016- August 12, 2016
  • Each participant will receive a very competitive stipend of $650 per week
  • Furnished housing and utilities for the duration of the program.
  • Travel assistance to/from site up to $1500 maximum

The Challenge Program cohort will also have opportunities to meet with one another to compare challenges, solutions, and research progress. Participants will also attend research seminars, go on facility tours, and become an integral part of the collaborative environment at ORNL. 

Oak Ridge National Laboratory and ORAU have long been partners in creating innovative and exciting undergraduate research experiences – and the ORNL Challenge program is no different.

Participants in the ORNL Challenge program will have the opportunity to conduct research under many of the world’s leading scientists in the fields of clean energy, materials sciences, neutron sciences, nuclear sciences, national security, supercomputing, and computation.  ORNL staff researchers consistently win federal Department of Energy awards, collaborate on innovative R&D projects with big companies, and push the boundaries of scientific discovery. 

In addition to the research, this program also contains a strong mentorship component.  While working alongside ORNL researchers on their unique Challenge project, participants will have the opportunity to interact with other research staff, graduate students, and fellow undergraduates.  Participants will also be given the opportunity to attend ORNL research seminars, tour the state-of-the-art laboratory research facilities, and participate in other group activities, all of which are developed to build a sense of community among participants.

A heavy emphasis on professional development is also made throughout the program. While honing their analytical and problem solving skills in the laboratory, participants will be able to take advantage of workshops and seminars designed to improve professional expertise. Past workshops include those centered on effectively utilizing professional scientific databases such as the Web of Science; enhancing specific skills such as how to present effective science posters; and developing a practical knowledge of the basics of professional social media sites like the LinkedIn platform. 

The summer culminates with a full-day research symposium, where participants present individual research posters to peers, lab mentors, and other ORNL research staff. Participants are also encouraged to present their summer research at conferences throughout the following school year. 

Many participants who participate in research programs at ORNL, such as the Challenge Program, establish lasting connections with their mentors, and return the following summers or semesters to continue their research.   

The Challenge program also offers competitive compensation for the summer term. Participants will earn $6,500 for the 10 week internship, at the rate of $650 per week. Housing allowances are provided for those who commute more than 50 miles one way from their place of residence. Competitive compensation for travel expenses will also be provided.

The nearby cities of Knoxville, Nashville, and Asheville, N.C., as well as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, offer participants many options for weekend activities. Past participants have attended University of Tennessee sporting events, road-tripped to concerts at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, hiked along the many nature trails in Cades Cove, Gatlinburg, and nearby N.C., as well as explored the uniqueness of our own “Secret City”, Oak Ridge.