The Awareness, Interest, and Access Series introduces engaging opportunities for minority businesses, students, or faculty interested in the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories. On August 10, 2021, the DOE Office of Economic Impact and Diversity hosted Oak Ridge National Laboratory with Director of Communications David Keim and Director of Diversity and International Division Deborah Bowling, and others. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is one of three Department of Energy sites in Oak Ridge, TN. ORNL is the site of 10 graphite reactors, the first continuous operating reactor in the world. ORNL plans to have a net-zero emission economy-wide by 2050 and increase environmental justice with 40% of investment benefits towards disadvantaged communities affected by environmental degradation. Their centennial vision includes developing diverse workforces with accelerating translational research for global scientific leadership.

In this session, Bowling detailed ORNL’s vision of creating and fostering an inclusive and equitable workforce and culture. There are six pillars of DEI that ORNL enforces to achieve the success of its vision, including dynamic forces and committed leadership.  Information regarding ORNL business opportunities was also discussed, which included how small businesses can evaluate how they suit ORNL using its small business website. This resource is an excellent indicator of current opportunities to which small businesses can subscribe to the specific aspects that range from industrial equipment to professional and staffing services.

Michael Paulus, Director of Technology Transfer Office, announced Industries of the Future Accelerator, a partnership managed by Techstars. By October 6, 2021, businesses can apply for this three-month program that provides mentoring, funding, workshops, and more that help strengthen business plans, entrepreneurship, and producing pitch decks.

Another opportunity detailed is the Innovation Crossroads, a two-year program for early-stage companies focused on any industry of the future. Businesses will be developing their technology with guidance and resources, including a $100,000 a year salary. This application opens on September 21, 2021 and closes on October 31, 2021. Eric Pierce, Director of Environmental Sciences Division, detailed the extensive research ORNL is doing on water quality and quantity in river basins and how that is conducive to informing and understanding the world. Pierce described the countless interns that have found success in this research and their careers after receiving ORNL guidance.

Ja’wanda Grant, University and Student Affairs Lead, presented educational programs available for all levels of education, from high school to graduate and faculty. These programs have had significant success in student continuation in STEM careers and enrichment. ORNL has an average of over 1,000 educational program participants annually, with 99% of past interns reviewing that this experience has positively benefited their career.

One of the many undergraduate opportunities includes the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) for students pursuing STEM careers that are available in the fall and spring terms. This opportunity consists of a stipend, housing, and travel allowance. The application for this internship is due October 6, 2021. 

Another unique graduate opportunity is the GEM Fellow Internship for students from underqualified communities. Participants will be researching at the lab for the summer with projects that align with the student’s research goals.

ORNL is a purposeful, enriching, and interactive institution that encourages overall growth and scientific innovation collaboration. With over 2,000 researchers and numerous opportunities, ORNL session speakers encourage students, businesses, and faculty to apply and be a part of the future of ORNL.

Watch the AIA series featuring Oak Ridge National Lab.