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Oak Ridge Science Semester

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ACM’s Off-Campus Study Programs are currently paused and are not accepting applications for 2023 (learn more). Students can still apply directly to our affiliated programs.

Your research, with world-class scientists, at a national laboratory.

The Oak Ridge Science Semester (ORSS) offers a unique opportunity for undergraduates to immerse themselves in research at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the nation’s largest multiprogram research laboratory.

ORSS is recognized by the member colleges of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) and the Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA).

students in lab

Program Overview

The ACM Oak Ridge Science Semester (ORSS) offers a unique opportunity for undergraduates to immerse themselves in research at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the nation’s largest multiprogram research laboratory. Mentored by ORNL scientists, students pursue questions in biosciences, chemistry and nuclear chemistry, computer science, earth and geosciences, energy, engineering, environmental and marine sciences, mathematics and statistics, physics and biophysics, and more.

Students will also participate in workshops on scientific communication, career development, graduate school preparation, poster presentations, and tours of ORNL research facilities. Students spend 40 hours per week at the lab, including their research internship and interdisciplinary seminar. Additionally, students may choose to take an advanced course taught by the Visiting Faculty Director on the Pellissippi State Community College (PSCC) campus.

The Oak Ridge Science Semester, founded by Denison University, is now managed by the Associated Colleges of the Midwest and is also recognized by the member colleges of the Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA). Undergraduates from any four-year U.S. college or university are eligible to apply. In order to be eligible for participation in the Oak Ridge Science Semester, you must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. lawful permanent resident (LPR), or eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) in the U.S. If you have questions about your eligibility for the program, please contact ACM at 312-263-5000 or apply@acm.edu.

student in lab

Application Process

This program is paused through 2023-2024 and is not currently accepting applications.

Applicants will be required to submit a transcript, resume, faculty recommendations, responses to several short-answer questions, and an essay. You must also have off-campus study approval from your home campus. Note: your college’s application process may involve additional application materials, and internal campus deadlines may be considerably earlier than ACM’s deadline. Be sure to check with your Off-Campus Study Office about your college’s application procedures and deadlines.

Applications are initially reviewed by representatives from the ACM, GLCA, and ORNL. Approved applications are circulated to one or more ORNL research groups for consideration. Acceptance into the ACM ORSS is dependent upon successful placement with an ORNL research group. Be sure to view the video from ACM’s ORSS virtual session, which offers guidance on building a strong application for the program.

A non-refundable deposit of $50, payable to the ACM, is due upon acceptance and will be applied toward housing and transportation costs. An additional $200 housing deposit is required and will be refunded upon completion of the ACM ORSS provided that no additional cleaning or special repairs are required for the student’s apartment.

student in lab with computer

Student Life

Students live in apartments near the Pellissippi State Community College (PSCC) campus in the Hardin Valley area of Knoxville, Tennessee. Students have access to PSCC’s library. Transportation is available on weekdays between PSCC and ORNL. The Hardin Valley area has a lot to offer ORSS students including retail stores, grocery stores, restaurants, outdoor activities, and more.

Knoxville, Tennessee is known as a “hidden gem” of the South for all that it offers: outdoor adventures, several museums and galleries, a vibrant nightlife, and a rich cultural history. With a mix of city and nature, Knoxville provides a diverse variety of popular attractions including the Sunsphere, the Knoxville Zoo, and the Navitat Knoxville adventure trail.

Schedule

This program is paused through 2023-2024.

Host institution

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)

Living arrangements

Students live in apartments near the Pellissippi State Community College (PSCC) campus in the Hardin Valley area of Knoxville, Tennessee. Transportation is available on weekdays between PSCC and ORNL.

Program details

Applications are initially reviewed by representatives from the ACM, GLCA, and ORNL. Approved applications are circulated to one or more ORNL research groups for consideration. Acceptance into the ACM ORSS program is dependent upon successful placement with an ORNL research group.

Resources

Video of Virtual Session: Building a Strong Application (from August 18, 2020)

Application deadlines

This program is paused through 2023-2024 and is not currently accepting applications.

Academics

Research Internship (8 credits)

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the largest US Department of Energy (DOE) science and energy laboratory. Its capabilities span a broad range of scientific and engineering disciplines, enabling researchers to explore fundamental science challenges and accelerate the delivery of solutions to the marketplace. ORNL supports DOE’s national missions of scientific discovery, clean energy, and security.

Students conduct research on a specific project under the guidance of a staff scientist at ORNL, with access to world-leading technologies. You will be expected to contribute significantly to the design and methodological approach of your research. You will also become a member of the vibrant science community at ORNL and will have the opportunity to present your research data for discussion and commentary. Students receive 8 credits for their participation in the internship.

You can access information about specific research programs and the people who conduct them across the ORNL Research Divisions here. You will be asked to indicate the research areas you are interested in as part of the ACM ORSS application form. This video from ACM’s ORSS virtual session offers guidance on building a strong application for the program.

Students participating in the ACM ORSS receive a stipend for their internship. The stipend in 2022-2023 was scheduled to be $10,400, subject to available funding. This stipend is paid over regular intervals throughout the semester. The stipend is considered income and is taxable.

Interdisciplinary Seminar (4 credits)

Students meet weekly for an interdisciplinary seminar series led by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), including topics on scientific communication, career exploration, graduate school preparation, and more. The seminar is intended to broaden students’ perspectives and expose them to the full range of research conducted by staff scientists at ORNL through field trips, lectures, interactive discussions, and tours. Finally, the seminar serves as a forum for students to showcase their own research data for discussion with their peers and colleagues at a poster session at the end of the semester.

Advanced Course (4 credits)

Students can take an advanced course taught by the Visiting Faculty Director on the Pellissippi State Community College campus. Occasionally, students can pursue an independent study under the supervision of the Visiting Faculty Director.

Learning Objectives & Outcomes

All ACM colleges are grounded in the liberal arts tradition, and this educational commitment extends to ACM off-campus study programs. By participating in one of these programs, you’ll benefit from studying in a new location that combines experiential, place-based learning with academic purpose similar to your home campus as you pursue the program’s learning goals.

In each program you’ll enjoy small class sizes, allowing you to work closely with faculty and other students. You’ll also live in housing and participate in activities that provide opportunities to connect course-based learning with the local community and culture.

You’ll find that the learning objectives and outcomes of each ACM program reflect these liberal arts educational values.

The Oak Ridge Science Semester program is designed to offer you the unique undergraduate experience of immersing yourself in research at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the nation’s largest multi-program research laboratory. With a mentored internship, you will have the opportunity to pursue scientific questions in a laboratory setting as well as the opportunity to engage across scientific disciplines through the seminar component of the program. This will allow you to engage with the ORNL community on a wider level.

Program learning objectives:

  • Understand the research process and contribute significantly to the design and methodological approach of your project; work closely with a research mentor to explore fundamental science challenges.
  • Enhance your skills as a member of a research community, interacting with other scientists, sharing the results of your work in a symposium, and engaging with your peers on the program.
  • Develop your understanding of how your internship and specific tasks fit into a larger on-going research project and make connections throughout the national laboratory by actively participating in the seminar portion of the program.

While participating in the program, you will gain skills in conducting scientific research, extend your knowledge, and learn how the scientific method and research discovery processes fit into larger projects; you will write about and discuss your research project and findings through oral and visual presentations and written materials; and you will develop an understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of research being conducted at this specific national laboratory.

Location & Facilities

Oak Ridge/Knoxville, Tennessee

Students live in apartments near the Pellissippi State Community College (PSCC) campus in the Hardin Valley area of Knoxville, Tennesssee. Transportation is available on weekdays between PSCC and ORNL. The Hardin Valley area has a lot to offer ORSS students including retail stores, grocery stores, restaurants, libraries, outdoor activities, and more.

Knoxville, Tennessee is known as a “hidden gem” of the South for all that it offers: outdoor adventures, several museums and galleries, a vibrant nightlife, and a rich cultural history. With a mix of city and nature, Knoxville provides a diverse variety of popular attractions including the Sunsphere, the Knoxville Zoo, and the Navitat Knoxville adventure trail.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the largest US Department of Energy (DOE) science and energy laboratory. Its capabilities span a broad range of scientific and engineering disciplines, enabling researchers to explore fundamental science challenges and acceleratethe deliveryof solutions to the marketplace. ORNL supports DOE’s national missions of scientific discovery, clean energy, and security.

Excursions & Travel

The Visiting Faculty Director will arrange a couple of group excursions during the semester, based on participant interest.

Living Arrangements

Oak Ridge Science Semester students live in furnished apartments within walking distance of the Pellissippi State Community College campus in the Hardin Valley area of Knoxville, Tennessee.

Apartments will include:

Bedroom furnishings

Bedding

Shower curtain (if needed)

Towels

Kitchen items, including pots, pans, flatware, dishes, glasses

Living room furnishings

Participants should coordinate with roommates on what other items to bring or purchase once in Tennessee.

Health & Safety

The ACM prioritizes your well-being during your time in Tennessee. While it is your responsibility to communicate your health and safety concerns to the program faculty and staff, you will be equipped with the proper resources to ensure that you have a safe off-campus semester, allowing you to thrive in your studies and beyond. 

The following information provides an overview of some of the ACM policies and procedures for student health and safety. You will receive comprehensive information about health and safety procedures after being admitted to the program. 

Health 

Health insurance 

All ACM Oak Ridge Science Semester students are required to carry their own health insurance.  

Medications and other medical preparation 

If you take one or more prescription drugs regularly, you’ll need to speak with your physician prior to arriving in Tennessee. You can decide with your physician which pharmacy to use for your prescription(s).  

Special diets 

After your program acceptance, you will be prompted to notify the ACM if you have any dietary restrictions. The ACM will work to make appropriate accommodations for group meals. 

Safety 

The ACM is dedicated to ensuring your safety during your time off-campus while also encouraging your immersion in Oak Ridge/Knoxville. ACM program staff are acquainted with the area and will advise you on safety. The program’s comprehensive orientation provides practical information and advice for personal safety while living in Knoxville. 

Cost

Cost Information for Oak Ridge Science Semester (ORSS)

  • If you are a student at an ACM or GLCA institution, the program educational cost that ACM charges students and their college for the Oak Ridge Science Semester is automatically discounted by $5,000.
  • If you are a student at a college that is affiliated with the program, ACM discounts the program educational cost by 5%. See ACM Program Affiliates for a list of colleges affiliated with ORSS.

Applying for an ACM program is free. Educational costs for the ORSS will vary based on your individual financial aid package and your school’s procedures, as schools may charge based on either the cost of the ACM program or the college’s tuition price. Additionally, some schools may assess special fees for off-campus study.

Anticipated Costs for 2022-2023 Academic Year

(This program is paused through 2023-2024.)

Price Affiliate Price ACM/GLCA Price
Educational Costs* $25,500 $24,225 $20,500
Program Fee** $5,500 $5,500 $5,500
Campus tuition charges and/or fees*** Varies Varies Varies

To help you budget for additional out-of-pocket expenses in Knoxville/Oak Ridge, see an estimate of what ACM students have spent in the past.

Sample Budget for a Semester in Knoxville/Oak Ridge

Meals¹ $1,200
Travel to/from Knoxville/Oak Ridge Varies
Cultural events/entertainment $300
Books $100
Miscellaneous² $200

¹ Depending on how often you cook in your apartment or purchase meals out.

² Includes personal travel and entertainment. See below for examples of common personal expenses.


Cost of Living in Knoxville/Oak Ridge

The following chart includes cost estimates for common personal purchases in Knoxville/Oak Ridge.

Knoxville sales tax 9.25%
Oak Ridge sales tax 9.75%
Newspaper $2
Bus ticket $1.50
Taxi per mile $2.00
Movie ticket $12
Museum admission $12.50
Pint of beer $4
Cover charge at a bar $5
Gallon of milk $3.25
Laundry detergent (50 fl oz) $7
Lunch at casual restaurant $9
Cup of coffee $3.00
Box of cereal $3.50
Gallon of gas $2.25
Pizza delivery $25
Bagel $2.50
Bottle of Coca-Cola $1.50
Deodorant $4.00
Average cost of weekly groceries $75

This page was updated on May 14, 2021.

Notes:

* Discounts apply to educational costs only. Program-sponsored field trips and excursions are included in the educational costs.
** The program fee covers housing and local transportation. The $50 non-refundable deposit will be applied toward the program fee. Students are responsible for their transportation to and from Oak Ridge/Knoxville, TN.
*** Many colleges assess additional fees or charge students full home college tuition instead of the ACM educational costs. This typically relates to expenses for academic support services and the awarding of academic credit and/or financial aid. Please consult your Financial Aid office or Off-Campus Study office for more details about your college’s policies, and to find out what you will be charged for the program.


Paid Internships at Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Students participating in the ACM ORSS receive a stipend for their internship. The stipend in 2022-2023 was scheduled to be $10,400, subject to available funding. This stipend is paid over regular intervals throughout the semester. The stipend is considered income and is taxable.

Please click here for additional information on the ORSS internships.

Faculty Advisors & Contacts

Faculty Advisors

How do ACM’s courses and credits fit with your academic plan?

Talk to the program faculty advisor on your campus to learn more.

Albion College

Craig Bieler cbieler@albion.edu

Kenyon College

Frank Peiris peirisf@kenyon.edu

Allegheny College

Rachel O’Brien robrien@allegheny.edu

Knox College

Andrew Leahy aleahy@knox.edu

Beloit College

Britt Scharringhausen scharr@beloit.edu

Lake Forest College

Alexandra Olson aolson@lakeforest.edu

Carleton College

Helen Minsky hminsky@carleton.edu

Lawrence University

Allison Fleshman allison.m.fleshman@lawrence.edu

Coe College

Marty St. Clair mstclair@coe.edu

Luther College

Bradley Chamberlain chambr01@luther.edu

Colorado College

Sally Meyer smeyer@coloradocollege.edu

Macalester College

Keith Kuwata kuwata@macalester.edu

Cornell College

Craig Teague cteague@cornellcollege.edu

Monmouth College

Christopher Fasano cfasano@monmouthcollege.edu

Denison University

Dan Gibson gibson@denison.edu

Oberlin College

Michael Parkin michael.parkin@oberlin.edu

DePauw University

Howard Brooks hlbrooks@depauw.edu

Ohio Wesleyan University

Craig Jackson chjackso@owu.edu

Grinnell College

Leslie Lyons lyons@grinnell.edu

Ripon College

Christina Othon othonc@ripon.edu

Hope College

Jonathan Peterson peterson@hope.edu

Wabash College

James Brown brownj@wabash.edu

Kalamazoo College

Jennifer Furchak jfurchak@kzoo.edu

The College of Wooster

Colby Long clong@wooster.edu

Faculty Research & Teaching

The Oak Ridge Science Semester offers opportunities to faculty at member institutions of the ACM and the Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA). 

Teaching on the Program 

Each fall, a visiting faculty member is on-site for the entire semester. Faculty members from ACM and GLCA colleges are eligible to apply and have the opportunity to lead the semester while teaching one course for an interdisciplinary group of students. Additionally, the visiting faculty member will be able to conduct independent research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. For additional information, please see the application information or send an email to ocs@acm.edu.

Research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) 

Modest travel grants that can be applied to your lodging are available from the ACM, if you are interested in preparing a visiting faculty application. See the Faculty Travel Grants webpage for information about applying for a grant.

Do you know students interested in applying to the Oak Ridge Science Semester? 

Please send us the names of your students who would benefit from participation in the Oak Ridge Science Semester. It is an intensive program designed to challenge upper level undergraduate students considering a career in the sciences. Contact ocs@acm.edu with the names of potential participants. 

Michael Vertovec

Questions?

Michael Vertovec, Assistant Program Manager
180 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 2020, Chicago, IL 60601
312.561.5934 / mvertovec@acm.edu

Off-Campus Study Resources

Please consult our Off-Campus Study Policies and Procedures for detailed guidance, including resources for parents and guardians, information about costs and financial assistance, and much more.

Browse ACM Off-Campus Study Opportunities: Field Museum Semester | Newberry Seminar | Oak Ridge Science Semester | Japan Study | River Semester | Carleton Global Engagement

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