Academics & Eligibility


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.

Advanced Courses

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. (4 credits)

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)

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)

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.

Eligibility & Process


Junior and Senior majors in astronomy, astrophysics, biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, environmental science, geology, mathematics and physics are eligible. Applicants must have grade point averages of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale overall and in their majors. Credit and grades: Recommended credit is 16 semester hours or the equivalent: Interdisciplinary Seminar, 4 credits; Advanced Course, 4 Credits; Research, 8 credits. Students should consult the campus Oak Ridge Science Semester Faculty Representative or Off-Campus Studies Officer for their College's credit and grading policies for this program. The amount and distribution of credit should be determined in advance after consultation with the students' academic advisors.  

Student Selection Process

All applications are first reviewed by the Advisory Board composed of GLCA and ACM faculty members and an administrator from each of the GLCA, ACM, and ORNL. Those applications approved by the Advisory Board are sent to one or more ORNL research groups whose interests are similar to those of the student. Acceptance into the ORSS is dependent on successful placement with an ORNL research group.

Contact Us

Dan Gibson

Director of Oak Ridge Science Semester

Beth Jeffries

Administrative Assistant to the Associate Provosts
Oak Ridge Science Semester, Program Assistant


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