In Tennessee, federal and state leaders and a public research university have forged a unique relationship that promises to play a major role in setting the national and international science agenda.

The University of Tennessee manages and operates Oak Ridge National Laboratory through UT-Battelle with enthusiastic and substantial support from the state of Tennessee. The research enterprise consists of $3 billion in research facilities, equipment and expertise in East Tennessee. These resources include the Spallation Neutron Source, a $1.4 billion science project; several of the world’s largest unclassified supercomputers; joint research centers; state tax exemptions; and funding for joint faculty appointments. They form a UT-Oak Ridge venture that is both unique and uniquely successful.

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy extended UT-Battelle’s contract to manage Oak Ridge National Laboratory for another five years. The infusion of combined scientific capability UT and ORNL bring to the region enables addressing today’s and tomorrow’s most pressing scientific questions. The close proximity of UT’s flagship campus and the national laboratory, strengthen the research and academic linkages further. The University’s partnership with ORNL today includes more than 200 faculty members and ORNL staff with who have joint appointments, along with more than 150 students who work at the lab.

Linking faculty expertise to world-class facilities brings enormous potential. In key areas like high-performance computing, neutron scattering, nanotechnology and materials science, UT and ORNL have put together the facilities, expertise and vision to be among the world’s leaders. It is critical that our higher educational system take a leadership role in marshaling these resources, partners, and vision so our nation can remain competitive in science and research as we face growing international challenges from China and India and around the world.

What is so important about the fact the University of Tennessee manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory?

With the strong backing of the state, the UT-Oak Ridge enterprise is significant for several reasons:

  • The university’s venture with Oak Ridge National Laboratory yields world-leading expertise in the areas of high-performance computing, materials research, and nanotechnology. With UT as ORNL’s managing entity through UT-Battelle, the university and lab are making major strides in science.
  • Under UT management came the first state-funded construction of research facilities at a national lab.
  • The Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) puts UT and ORNL into a global leadership position in neutron scattering ­research—the key to increasing our understanding of particles at the smallest levels.
  • The Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences at ORNL, along with the UT-ORNL Joint Institute for Neutron Sciences, make the SNS campus the top destination in the field. If scientists want the best to work with neutrons, they will come to East Tennessee.
  • The National Institute for Computational Sciences is home to the third-most powerful computer in the world, and ORNL is building a machine to come online in 2018 that would be No. 1. This computing power allows scientists to effectively process and understand the massive data created by a project like SNS.
  • As major projects come online, outstanding faculty are drawn from around the world to UT and ORNL. They are attracted by the scientific opportunities and by the advantages of holding joint appointments between the two institutions. Support from the state of Tennessee has led to the creation of the Governor’s Chair researcher positions, that have drawn more than a dozen top scientists.
  • UT-Oak Ridge has also paid dividends in economic development. Since UT began managing ORNL, the technology commercialization program has spun off more than 90 new companies. These companies lead to new jobs and opportunity in East Tennessee and beyond, and the program serves to draw the most talented researchers to the lab.
  • UT and ORNL established the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education in 2011 to increase the number of doctoral students in science, technology, engineering and math. Enrollment quickly grew to more than 100 students, becoming UT’s largest PhD program.
  • The university and the laboratory also cooperate to offer the Graduate School of Genome Science and Technology.