UT to Reap Academic Benefits of ORNL Management

KNOXVILLE — University of Tennessee officials say research, student internships, and national prestige are some of the academic benefits to be reaped from management of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

UT-Battelle will assume responsibility for ORNL on April 1.

Dr. Dwayne McCay, UT vice president for research and information technology, said the move would create natural alignments for joint research between UT and ORNL scientists.

“With UT-Battelle managing the lab, the research priorities of the university and the national lab will naturally become more closely aligned,” McCay said.

“We already are involved in work at ORNL, but now there will be even more natural extensions that occur. The team overseeing the lab will be automatically conscious of the areas of expertise and the long-term goals of the university’s research.”

Dr. Larry McKay, a UT geology professor who has worked extensively with ORNL, said the new management might encourage ORNL internships for UT students.

“Internship programs at ORNL are available through a variety of programs, each with different administrative procedures, which makes it difficult for students to determine what is available, and how to apply,” McKay said. “This partnership may help students applying for internships.”

Dr. Bob Ward, who heads UT’s computer science department, said managing a Department of Energy national laboratory brings prestige to the university.

“Universities that manage DOE labs are very highly respected,” Ward said. “This puts us as peers with some strong academic institutions. Managing the lab puts us in a league that we would like to be in.”

Ward said the association should help UT recruit top scientists.

“Everyone knows ORNL is good in physics, but it’s also extremely good at computational, life and environmental sciences,” Ward said. “Our departments in those general areas will have more opportunities to work with world-class scientists.”

Dr. Lee Magid, a UT chemist, said choosing sites for ORNL research facilities such as the Joint Institute for Neutron Sciences and the Spallation Neutron Source would play a major role in enhancing research collaboration.

“It (choosing a location) is a balancing act between the synergies you might create by clustering these buildings together and the relationships you want to enhance among specific scientific communities both in and outside of ORNL,” Magid said.

Magid, who uses ORNL’s High Flux Isotope Reactor in her research, has played a significant role in JINS and SNS planning.

“To me, the important thing is UT-Battelle’s commitment to a user-orientation,” Magid said, “for example, proposing a Users Coordinating Council, made up of at least one individual from each user facility, could look at issues that impact all facilities and users.”