Graduate Students Tour Oak Ridge National Lab

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

While many in the Physics department were taking a well-earned respite from studying, teaching, and research during Fall Break, twelve intrepid graduate students traveled to Oak Ridge, Tennessee for a visit to the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Together with 17 students from the Chemistry and ECE departments, they took an extensive tour of the laboratory's facilities and met with its staff, who introduced them to the wide range of research opportunities that ORNL has to offer. The students were greeted with breakfast by Dr. Ian Anderson, director of ORNL Graduate and University Partnerships, who introduced them to the lab's goals for student involvement in its scientific program. David Dean, Director of the Physics Division, gave an overview of Oak Ridge's many areas of active physics research. Georgia Tourassi, who conducted her graduate work at Duke and is now Director of Oak Ridge's Biomedical Science and Engineering Center, presented the work that is being done at the lab in the biomedical sciences.

There was also an opportunity for the visiting students to speak with former Duke graduate students Matthew Blackston and Jerry Parks, both of whom are now researchers at ORNL, about the transition from the University to the national lab. Laboratory staff members and users then gave the visitors guided tours of Oak Ridge's considerable research facilities, including its computing center, the Spallation Neutron Source, the High Temperature Materials Laboratory, the High Flux Isotope Reactor, and the Center for Nanophase Materials Science. The students also toured the historic Graphite Pile Reactor, the first nuclear reactor designed for continuous use and only the second ever built (after Fermi's Chicago Pile-1). For the graduate students, it was quite an eye-opening trip, especially for those who had never considered conducting research at a national lab. Several commented on the impressive breadth of research programs at Oak Ridge. "I learned a lot by getting to meet so many people with such diverse scientific backgrounds," said Kristen Collar, a second year graduate student. Many also agreed that one of the highlights of the trip was speaking to Duke alumni who had settled into staff positions at Oak Ridge. Jon Mueller (entered '09) said, "I especially enjoyed interacting with former Duke graduate students who went on to work at ORNL." Oak Ridge and Duke recently penned an agreement on Cooperation in Graduate Research and Education. Program participants will receive mentoring from the laboratory staff, access to Oak Ridge's facilities, and fellowship opportunities through ORNL. See more photos on Flickr here.