The Oak Ridge Science Semester (ORSS) enables students to join ongoing investigations at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in research areas as diverse as astrophysics, cell biology, DNA sequencing, genetic mutagenesis, parallel computing, robotics, toxicology, and much more. In their research, ORSS student participants use the sophisticated resources available at the Laboratory, including supercomputers, state-of-the-art electron microscopes, lasers, and analytical instruments such as a fourier transform mass spectrometer and a scanning tunneling microscope.
Participants are members of a research team and are expected to contribute significantly to the design and methodological approach of their research activity. The academic program is enriched in informal ways by guest speakers, department colloquia, and the special interests and expertise of the ORNL staff.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) multi-program laboratory focusing on national and global energy and environmental issues. The Laboratory is managed for DOE by University of Tennessee/Batelle. ORNL's mission is to conduct basic and applied research and development in order to advance the nation's energy resources, environmental quality and scientific knowledge and to contribute to the educational foundation and national economic competitiveness.
Courses and Credits
Students devote most of their time to research with a scientist from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) staff serving as a mentor. In addition, students are required to participate in an interdisciplinary seminar and may choose an advanced academic course from among a variety of options. The seminar and advanced courses are given during the first 12 weeks of the semester, allowing students to devote their last three weeks exclusively to research and the completion of research papers.
Every resident Oak Ridge Science Semester faculty member offers a course in his or her discipline. The courses offered in a particular Fall are chosen to accommodate the the needs and interests of program participants. In the past, ORSS faculty have offered courses in advance organic and inorganic chemistry, physical chemistry, biochemistry, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, abstract or linear algebra, differential equations, dynamical systems, econometrics and scientific computing. If necessary, courses also can be taught by ORNL staff scientists serving as adjunct faculty. (optional, 4 semester credits, or 1 GAC unit)
Students whose academic requirements are not met by any of the courses offered, may arrange with their home campus faculty for an independent study at Oak Ridge under the supervision of one of the resident faculty.
Research at ORNL - Required (8 semester credits, or 2 GAC units)
Each student is expected to devote 35 hours per week to research on a specific project under the guidance of an ORNL staff scientist. This research experience is the core of the program. Students are expected to contribute significantly to the design and methodological approach of their research activity, and often find this the most demanding and rewarding experience of their college careers.
Interdisciplinary Seminar - Required (4 semester credits, or 1 GAC unit)
This seminar is intended to broaden students' perspectives and expose them to the wide range of research carried out at ORNL by staff scientists from many fields. The seminar includes field trips to acquaint students with some of the research facilities at ORNL. During the latter part of the program, the seminar serves as a forum for students to present their own research data for discussion and comment.
Note: Students who receive financial aid – especially Minnesota state grants – will need to take all 4 GAC units, including one of the advanced seminars, in order to earn enough credit (3.75 GAC unit minimum) to be considered full-time.