WKU partners with Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Jack Johnson

A recent agreement between WKU and UT-Battelle, manager of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, promises to involve students, faculty and graduates in participating in research in a national laboratory.

Cheryl Davis, interim associate provost for research and creative activity, was one of the leading forces behind the agreement and said the chance to research at ORNL is an important opportunity.

“WKU students would greatly benefit by having an opportunity to participate in research projects with these investigators, and potentially to actually work in one of the world-class facilities at the ORNL,” Davis said.

ORNL is the largest U.S. Department of Energy laboratory and conducts basic and applied research to create solutions to problems with energy and security. ORNL employs more than 4,000 scientists and engineers in over 100 disciplines.

While talking about the specifics of the new initiative between WKU and the national laboratory, Provost David Lee mentioned some history students will now be able to be a part of it.

“Oak Ridge, in particular, grew out of research for the Manhattan Project in the 1940s,” Lee said. “The Manhattan Project established three major laboratories, one in Washington state, another in Los Alamos and then Oak Ridge in Tennessee.”

Oak Ridge is partnered with more than 250 universities in America in some capacity; these partnerships include several major research universities on the UT-Battelle management team.

“I believe that there are many great reasons for encouraging collaboration between scientists and engineers at universities and in our national laboratories,” Davis said. “Finding solutions to the many scientific challenges that we face in the world today will require the combined efforts of large teams of investigators with varied expertise.”

ORNL offers several programs for promising undergraduate students. Students interested in summer, fall or spring internships can apply to various interdisciplinary and discipline-based programs.

Though not every student at WKU will get the opportunity to conduct research at ORNL, those who do could come away with a wide breadth of experience.

“Not every science major will have contact with Oak Ridge; part of what we’re trying to do is create a portfolio of opportunities –– lots of different ways in which our students and our faculty could engage in research,” Lee said. “So while maybe numerically, relatively few students will be impacted directly by this, we hope that Oak Ridge is part of many other opportunities that we will benefit from.”

Although the partnership is in its beginning stages, Lee said students can expect to benefit from research opportunities for the foreseeable future.

“I’m confident we’re going to have a strong partnership with ORNL for a very long time,” Lee said.

Reporter Jack Johnson can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].