Skip to main content

Why Science?

ORNL is proud of its role in fostering the next generation of scientists and engineers. We bring in talented young researchers, team them with accomplished scientists and engineers, and put them to work at the lab’s one-of-a-kind facilities. The result is research that makes us proud and prepares them for distinguished careers.

We asked some of these young researchers why they chose a career in science, what they are working on at ORNL, and where they would like to go with their careers.

Patrick Caveney

Graduate student, Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences
Ph.D. student, Energy Science and Engineering, University of Tennessee (Bredesen Center)
Hometown: Johnson City, Tennessee

What are you working on at ORNL?

My research is about understanding how molecular resources are used among genes to make proteins. Using fluorescent, confocal microscopy, I observe protein production in a simplified, synthetic, cell-free system encapsulated in lipid membranes the size of mammalian cells. This work helps inform the designs of gene circuits that could be used to make bioproducts.

What would you like to do in your career?

In parallel with research, I cofounded a company to explore entrepreneurship. We licensed technology created at ORNL, improved it with a DOE grant, but failed to commercialize it. I would like to apply this experience to continue to work to bring scientific discoveries to market through small companies.

Why did you choose a career in science?

My parents encouraged academics and scientific curiosity. My high school AP biology teacher sparked my interest in cell biology with an experiment transforming E. coli with a fluorescent protein. It is fun to be, for a moment, the only person in the world to learn something new about nature.