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Distinguished Staff Fellowship Program

Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Candidates may discuss with their recruiter at a later date
Closing date
Oct 5, 2023

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Geochemistry, Hydrology
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As a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science national laboratory, ORNL has an extraordinary 80-year history of solving the nation’s biggest problems. We have a dedicated and creative staff of over 6,000 people! Our vision for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) is to cultivate an environment and practices that foster diversity in ideas and in the people across the organization, as well as to ensure ORNL is recognized as a workplace of choice. These elements are critical for enabling the execution of ORNL’s broader mission to accelerate scientific discoveries and their translation into energy, environment, and security solutions for the nation.

ORNL invites you to apply to its Distinguished Staff Fellowships (DSF) Program. The fellowships are awarded to outstanding early-career scientists and engineers with demonstrated success within their academic, professional, and technical areas, who have high potential to be future science leaders. These highly competitive fellowships are available across a variety of research disciplines, including biology and the environment, clean energy, fusion and fission, isotope science, materials science, national security, neutron science, and supercomputing.

Applicants selected to become DSFs will be named to one of three fellowships based on their scientific background. The fellowships honor three prominent scientists who made a Big Science impact at ORNL.

  • Dr. Liane B. Russell was a groundbreaking geneticist at ORNL (1947–2002), and in 1973 she was the first woman to receive the internationally awarded Roentgen Medal. She achieved international recognition for her contributions to our understanding of basic mammalian genetics. Russell Fellows are typically in the biological sciences, biomolecular chemistry, computational biology, and environmental and ecosystem sciences.
  • Dr. Alvin M. Weinberg, ORNL’s longest serving director (1955–1973), was a passionate advocate for nuclear energy with a strong interest in science policy. Weinberg Fellows generally align with the applied, experimental, and computational sciences and demonstrate competency in chemistry and chemical engineering, radiochemistry, materials science and engineering, nuclear science and engineering, and manufacturing science and engineering.
  • Dr. Eugene P. Wigner was a 1963 Nobel Laureate in physics and ORNL’s first director of research and development (1946–1947). Wigner Fellows are typically in the fundamental sciences and demonstrate competency in advanced materials, chemistry, computational science, neutron scattering, nuclear physics, and plasma and fusion energy sciences.

Targeted Research Directions

Candidates should demonstrate their ability to contribute to one (or more) of the following cross-disciplinary research initiatives:

  • Scale computing and data analytics to exascale and beyond for science and energy
  • To deliver transformational R&D to enable integrated energy systems and advancements in manufacturing 
  • Discover and design next-generation materials, and chemical processes for energy
  • Advance the impact and application of neutron science
  • Understand complexity in biological and environmental systems
  • Provide strategic capabilities in isotope R&D and production
  • Achieve breakthroughs in nuclear science, technologies, and systems focusing on fusion and fission
  • Deliver science and technology to address complex national security challenges in cyber resilience and intelligence, geospatial sciences and human security, and nuclear nonproliferation
  • Elucidate the principles of fundamental physics and particle interactions

Major Duties/Responsibilities: 

DSFs are expected to conduct scientific research of the highest quality and impact during their 3-year tenure appointment, become leaders in their fields, and be effective representatives of the Laboratory in their interactions with colleagues and with the DOE and other sponsors of R&D at ORNL. A key aspect of this fellowship program is a mentorship plan that is designed to facilitate the successful integration of each DSF into ORNL’s scientific community and the alignment of each fellow’s research activities with DOE missions. DSFs are expected to establish the foundation for a long-term career at ORNL.

Basic Qualifications:

  • Applicants should have received their PhD in a STEM, or a national security field, completed within the last 5 years.
  • Current ORNL postdoctoral researchers and ORNL staff members are not eligible to apply.

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Motivated self-starter with the ability to work independently and to participate creatively in collaborative teams across the laboratory 
  • Ability to function well in a fast-paced research environment, set priorities to accomplish multiple tasks within deadlines, and adapt to changing research priorities



Applicants cannot have received their PhD more than 5 years prior to the date of application and must complete all degree requirements before starting their appointment. 




Distinguished Staff Fellows join ORNL as independent, early-career research staff. Fellowship funds span the first 3 years of their ORNL employment to establish the foundation for a long-term career at ORNL.


Application Process

Applications will be accepted from September 1, 2023, to September 30th, 2023. Select “Apply Now” via our Careers website at

Please attach the following documents with your application submission:

  • A concise but thorough research statement (up to 3 pages, not including references) that describes a vision for tackling a grand research challenge, its significance and relationship to ORNL research programs, and its alignment to one (or more) of ORNL’s targeted research directions

Research statement guidelines:  


  • Research statement is up to 3 pages, not including references 
  • Background and significance
  • Describe the problem to be solved, the need to be addressed, or the gap in knowledge to be filled
  • Describe the current state of the field (including citations to relevant literature)
  • Research plan and approach 
  • State your specific aims, describe specific questions to be addressed or steps that will be taken to reach the overarching goal of your proposal
  • For each specific aim, describe the approach that will be taken to address that aim, providing enough detail to allow reviewers, representing a broad range of research areas, to assess appropriateness and novelty of your approach
  • Unofficial Ph.D. transcript
  • CV/Resume including a list of scholarly output (i.e., publications at top conferences, journals in the research domain, peer reviewed conference presentations, peer reviewed reports, spin-offs, technical achievements, etc.)
  • Cover letter
  • Three letters of recommendation: You are responsible for requesting the recommendation letters from your references, and all references should submit their letters directly to Please have your references address their letters to the “Distinguished Staff Fellowship Selection Committee”. To ensure proper receipt, please ask your references to use a subject line with your name included.

Your application and all required documents must be received by September 30th, 2023.

Selection Process:

The Distinguished Staff Fellowship Committee is a body of esteemed scientist representing diverse subject matters across the Lab. The Distinguished Staff Fellowship Committee will evaluate applicants based on candidate excellence and relevance of the proposed research topic once the application period has closed.

Additional information regarding ORNL’s DSF Program may be found by visiting the following link:

Benefits at ORNL: 

ORNL offers competitive pay and benefits programs to attract and retain talented people. The laboratory offers many employee benefits, including medical and retirement plans and flexible work hours, to help you and your family live happy and healthy. Employee amenities such as on-site fitness, banking, and cafeteria facilities are also provided for convenience.

Other benefits include the following: Prescription Drug Plan, Dental Plan, Vision Plan, 401(k) Retirement Plan, Contributory Pension Plan, Life Insurance, Disability Benefits, Generous Vacation and Holidays, Parental Leave, Legal Insurance with Identity Theft Protection, Employee Assistance Plan, Flexible Spending Accounts, Health Savings Accounts, Wellness Programs, Educational Assistance, Relocation Assistance, and Employee Discounts.

If you have difficulty using the online application system or need an accommodation to apply due to a disability, please email: or call 1.866.963.9545.

This position will remain open for a minimum of 5 days after which it will close when a qualified candidate is identified and/or hired.

We accept Word (.doc, .docx), Adobe (unsecured .pdf), Rich Text Format (.rtf), and HTML (.htm, .html) up to 5MB in size. Resumes from third party vendors will not be accepted; these resumes will be deleted and the candidates submitted will not be considered for employment.

If you have trouble applying for a position, please email

ORNL is an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants, including individuals with disabilities and protected veterans, are encouraged to apply.  UT-Battelle is an E-Verify employer.

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