ORAU Annual Report highlights impact of early career researchers on U.S. scientific mission

Jason Hayward

Jason Hayward, who has a doctorate in nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan, holds a high-resolution instrument, which is part of his research to benefit facilities like Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Spallation Neutron Source. (Photo credit: University of Tennessee)

With U.S. falling behind China and India in numbers of STEM graduates, strengthening U.S. scientific talent is critical, according to report

Jason Hayward is applying his nuclear engineering research expertise to develop the next generation of high-resolution instruments for facilities like Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Spallation Neutron Source.

Hayward, who has a doctorate in nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan, hopes his work will eventually help curtail the spread of nuclear weapons and assist in identifying viable alternative energy sources. Hayward is an assistant professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Tennessee, a joint faculty member with ORNL’s Nuclear Security and Isotope Technology Division, a U.S. Department of Energy research award recipient, and a participant in the Higher Education Research Experiences Program.

He and many other early career researchers are participating in fellowships and internships managed by Oak Ridge Associated Universities with DOE and other federal agencies, and they are the main focus of ORAU’s “2013 Annual Report,” which has just been released.

Alongside accomplished scientists and engineers, these students and postgraduates are performing cutting-edge research in national laboratories and research centers that is positively impacting the U.S. scientific mission. With the U.S. expected to produce only 400,000 graduates in scientific, technical, engineering, and mathematics disciplines by 2015, compared to more than 3.5 million and 1.5 million STEM graduates in China and India, respectively, in the same timeframe, cultivating U.S. STEM talent through these fellowships and internships is more critical than ever.

“A number of my graduate students have been supported through DOE funds, allowing them to research a wide range of topics from new scintillator development for measuring radiation to using radiation detection methods for monitoring treaty verification and nuclear arms control initiatives,” said Hayward, a graduate of the University of Michigan. “Some of the innovations resulting from basic research funded by DOE have the potential to lead to patents, enhanced national security, and increased global competitiveness.”

Building on long-standing relationships with DOE and national laboratories as well as academic institutions that are part of its 114-member university consortium, ORAU manages robust STEM learning enrichment and workforce development programs through DOE’s Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education and the ORAU Center for Science Education. The primary goal is to attract world-class scientific talent into research programs and ultimately scientific and technical careers. “Thousands of early-career professionals are conducting research at more than 300 federal laboratories and research centers across the country through ORAU-administered research participation programs,” said ORAU President and CEO Andy Page. “These efforts, along with our K-12 STEM initiatives that motivate and inspire young students to pursue S&T careers, help develop the infrastructure necessary for the U.S. to successfully compete globally.”

Other researchers featured in the report have commented on the value of these research experiences. “I wish every college student could have this experience…,” said Lee University mathematics undergraduate Lindsay Holdman, who spent 10 weeks researching improvements to lithium-ion batteries. Holdman’s appointment was at the National Energy Technology Laboratory through the DOE Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship, administered by ORISE. “… It has allowed me to become invested in and excited about my research,” she said.

“I’ve had the chance to work with some of the most expert professionals in the field,” said Davide Farnocchia, who has a doctorate, is a fellow in the ORAU-managed NASA Postdoctoral Program, and is performing near-Earth asteroid monitoring at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “I find it amazing how we can combine our different backgrounds and perspectives to help each other solve problems.”

To view a PDF of the 2013 ORAU Annual Report and to explore full profiles of these and other early career researchers, visit www.orau.org/annualreport.

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