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From the Director

The Science Alliance remains a foundational partner in fostering relationships between the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Our researchers have consistently engaged in meaningful collaborations with ORNL researchers for more than 35 years, and recent partnerships in the areas of advanced manufacturing, exascale computing, and neutron science highlight some of the unique capabilities afforded by the scientific climate in East Tennessee.

In FY20 the Science Alliance launched several new programs in keeping with its recently developed strategic plan. The Support for Affiliated Research Teams (StART) program supported innovation within the greater research enterprise by prioritizing projects with first-time collaborations between UT and ORNL scientists or new applications of established expertise. Additionally, the unification of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) allowed the Science Alliance to extend these opportunities to previously ineligible faculty members.

The Science Alliance has a proven history of supporting graduate students at the university. The Student Mentoring and Research Training (SMaRT) program began its first full cycle of joining UT undergraduate students with graduate student mentors in preparation for a summer research work experience. Despite the challenges associated with COVID-19, the campus community came together to find new and creative ways to engage with students and continue their research.

In June 2020 the Graduate Advancement, Training, and Education (GATE) program released its first call for applications. The program will provide 12-month graduate research assistant opportunities for high-achieving graduate students to further develop their research beginning in August of this year.

In addition to the flexibility and determination exhibited by Science Alliance–funded researchers, the Science Alliance deployed a rapid response funding opportunity through the Joint Directed Research Development (JDRD) initiative to boost research on campus with potential applications to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Funded projects began in August 2020.

In keeping with its historical spirit of collaboration, the Science Alliance enacted an advisory board in 2020. The board is composed of UT and ORNL scientists and administrators, with the purpose of ensuring open lines of communication between the Science Alliance and the local research community and further promoting transparency between the unit and its stakeholders.

The Science Alliance continues to develop and maintain program, including the StART, SMaRT, and GATE programs to support innovation, the development of new collaborations, and the bolstering of academic achievement across a variety of disciplines. Science Alliance awards are an investment in the university, its faculty and students, and the competitive future of the state of Tennessee.

Shawn Campagna

Science Alliance Director