Leading Biophysicist Named First UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair

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KNOXVILLE — Biophysicist Jeremy Smith, an internationally-recognized leader in his field, has been named the first University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair.

Dr. Jeremy Smith
Dr. Jeremy Smith
Smith’s selection was announced jointly on Wednesday by Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen and University of Tennessee President John Petersen. The Governor’s Chair program, funded by the State of Tennessee and ORNL, is designed to attract top scientists to the four UT-ORNL joint institutes.

“Our goal, very simply, is to bring some of the best scientists in the world to Tennessee,” Bredesen said. “The impact of their work can make a lasting difference for our state’s future.”

Petersen added that the Governor’s Chair program will enable UT to serve its critical role in the state’s economic development.

“The appointment of world-renowned scientists to Governor’s Chair positions also means the University of Tennessee will enhance an already outstanding research program in partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory,” said Petersen. “The more than $20 million in combined funding from the State of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to enable this program represents a simultaneous investment in the future of education, the economy and the people of Tennessee.”

Smith’s appointment will be in the UT-ORNL Joint Institute for Biological Sciences. He currently holds the chair of Computational Molecular Biophysics at the University of Heidelberg in Germany.

Biophysics is the science of explaining how physical principles drive life’s processes. British-born Smith’s research interests involve understanding biological molecules such as proteins using computer simulation and neutron scattering experiments. His research is interdisciplinary, involving the fields of chemistry, physics, computational science and biology. Smith is one of the world’s leaders in applying neutron scattering to important biological questions and will be among the first scientists to perform research using the Spallation Neutron Source.

From 1989 to 1998, Smith was molecular simulation group leader with France’s Atomic Energy Commission. From 1985 to 1989, he was a biophysics research associate and lecturer at Harvard University. Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in biophysics from Leeds University in England and conducted his doctoral research at the Institut Laue-Langevin in Grenoble, France, an international neutron science center.

“Much of today’s research cuts across traditional boundaries such as biology, physics and computation,” said ORNL Director Jeff Wadsworth. “Jeremy Smith specializes in bringing these fields together and is an ideal choice to help us tackle some of science’s toughest challenges.”

More on the Governor’s Chairs:

The UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair program is designed to attract exceptionally accomplished researchers from around the world to boost the efforts of the joint institutes shared by the university and the laboratory.

More than $20 million in funding from the state of Tennessee and ORNL is being invested to recruit and fund the positions. Governor’s Chair scientists will have joint appointments as tenured UT faculty and distinguished ORNL research staff.

The Governor’s Chair appointments include an ongoing discretionary research fund equal to 12 months’ salary.

These world-leading scientists will be at the forefront of the UT-ORNL partnership working to produce research that will continue to position UT and ORNL as leaders in the fields of biological science, computational science, advanced materials and neutron science.

More on the UT-ORNL Joint Institutes

The four UT-ORNL joint institutes are at the heart of the partnership between the state’s flagship university and the nation’s largest multi-purpose national laboratory. They serve to link research efforts at the two institutions and produce cutting-edge work in four key fields.

The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences (JICS) was founded in 1991 and is housed in a $10 million facility on the ORNL campus. This joint institute will support both fundamental and applied research and teaching programs in computational sciences, computational mathematics, computer science, high performance computing, storage and networking and cyber security.

The Joint Institute for Biological Sciences (JIBS) will be housed in an $11.6 million facility now under construction at ORNL. This Joint Institute will support research and teaching programs in genomics, bioinformatics and computational biology, molecular structural biology, proteomics, and biomedical technologies. The work will encompass both fundamental and applied research and development across a spectrum of systems from microbes to mammals, accelerating translation of insights into new technologies.

The Joint Institute for Advanced Materials (JIAM), a $45 million center to be located on the UT campus in Knoxville, will assemble interdisciplinary teams and first-class facilities to design complex materials with selected properties, for both basic and technological applications. This joint institute will seek to become one of the world’s foremost centers of materials research and expand America’s skilled labor force in multidisciplinary research in order to transfer technology to the private sector.

The Joint Institute for Neutron Sciences (JINS) will be located on ORNL’s Chestnut Ridge alongside the recently completed Spallation Neutron Source and Center for Nanophase Materials Science. This facility will support and enhance the research performed at SNS and CNMS by providing additional research facilities for visiting scientists. It also will serve as home to a significant neutron research presence for UT and ORNL.


Jay Mayfield (865-974-9409, jay.mayfield@tennessee.edu)
Gina Stafford (865-974-0741, stafford@tennessee.edu)
Mike Bradley (865-576-9553, bradleymk@ornl.gov)