Distinguished Staff Fellow Program

Solving Big Problems

Oak Ridge National Laboratory delivers scientific discoveries and technical breakthroughs needed to realize solutions in energy and national security and provide economic benefit to the nation. We address national needs through impactful research and world-leading research centers. Our wide range of partnerships with other US Department of Energy laboratories and programs, universities, and industry allows us to pair our strengths with others for outstanding contributions to science.

Conducting R&D with Impact

ORNL researchers apply unique facilities, sophisticated tools, and signature strengths in neutron science, high-performance computing, advanced materials, biology and environmental science, nuclear science and engineering, isotopes, and national security research to benefit science and society, making it possible for us to:

  • Advance understanding, design, and use of new materials and chemical processes
  • Reveal unmatched insights through computing and data
  • Ensure safe, clean nuclear power and secure nuclear materials
  • Produce rare isotopes for medicine, industry, security, research, and space exploration
  • Increase and exploit understanding of biological and environmental systems, from genes to ecosystems

Addressing National Needs

Established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project, ORNL is building on a legacy of discovery and innovation to continually address our most urgent R&D needs.

  • ORNL’s broad range of partnerships allows us to pair our strengths with others for outstanding contributions to science while providing economic benefit across the United States
  • The Proton Power Upgrade and Second Target Station will open new frontiers in materials research at the Spallation Neutron Source
  • ORNL’s Frontier supercomputer, has broken the exascale barrier and is delivering world-leading performance
  • ORNL assets are being focused on national artificial intelligence and quantum initiatives
  • New materials, software, and systems for advanced manufacturing developed at ORNL are transforming nuclear energy technology
  • Cybersecurity technologies developed by ORNL are improving the resilience of the nation’s electric grid and other critical infrastructure
  • Researchers are advancing biotechnology to convert plastics into valuable chemicals.

Recent R&D Highlights

  • Using supercomputing and neutrons to create the most accurate 3D model of a major signaling protein in humans
  • Inventing a cost-effective, environmentally friendly process to extract high-value rare earth elements from the scrapped magnets of used hard drives
  • Harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to better match cancer patients with clinical trials
  • Collaborating with Google to demonstrate the power of quantum computing
  • Developing a process to convert ethanol into fuels suitable for aviation, shipping, and heavy-duty vehicles
  • Restoring the nation’s ability to produce plutonium-238 for deep space missions
  • Applying human geography data and analytics for humanitarian, disaster response, and national security missions.


Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is the largest US Department of Energy (DOE) Offfice of Science laboratory, conducting basic and applied research to deliver transformative solutions to compelling problems in energy and security.

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:

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 May 1, 2023 to May 31st, 2023. Select “Apply Now” via our Careers website at jobs.ornl.gov.

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, 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 [email protected]. 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 May, 31st, 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: https://www.ornl.gov/careers/distinguished-fellowships.

Moving can be overwhelming and expensive. UT-Battelle offers a generous relocation package to ease the transition process. Domestic and international relocation assistance is available for certain positions. If invited to interview, be sure to ask your Recruiter (Talent Acquisition Partner) for details. 
For more information about our benefits, working here, and living here, visit the “About” tab at jobs.ornl.gov. 

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 [email protected].

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.

Apply Here: https://spiecareercenter.org/jobs/5378663