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 and Battelle Memorial Institute co-manage Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy through UT-Battelle, a 50-50 limited liability partnership. ORNL is the nation’s premiere science and energy laboratory, conducting basic and applied research to deliver transformative solutions to compelling problems in energy and security.

ORNL provides exceptional researchers with distinctive equipment and unique facilities to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. These resources include the Spallation Neutron Source, which provides unprecedented research opportunities to improve the efficiency and safety of products we use every day, like cell phones, engines and batteries; the world’s fastest unclassified supercomputer; some of the largest and advanced additive manufacturing equipment in the world;  joint research centers; and opportunities for collaborative joint faculty appointments and graduate student experiences. These form the basis for the uniquely successful UT-Oak Ridge partnership.

The combined scientific capability of UT and ORNL bring to the region a unique opportunity to address today’s and tomorrow’s most pressing scientific questions. UT an ORNL have a long and storied history of mutually beneficial collaborative efforts. Examples include the Science Alliance, Joint Institutes, the Joint Faculty program, the Governor’s Chair program and the Bredesen Center, which is a first-of-its-kind joint Ph.D. program focused on talent development in energy and data science and technology.

The long-term relationship between UT and ORNL, the geographic proximity of the two institutions, and UT’s co-management of ORNL makes the University’s partnership unique and provides an opportunity that allows UT to develop distinctive programs that separate it from the pack. Each of the collaborative efforts between UT and ORNL are individually successful, and UT is continually striving to synchronize and coordinate to capture the full value of the partnership for Tennesseans and the nation.

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.

UT System Contacts

Stacey Patterson

Stacey Patterson

Vice President for Research, Outreach and Economic Development