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ORNL Distinguished Staff Fellowship Program

The ORNL Distinguished Staff 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 to a select group of new ORNL staff members across a variety of research disciplines, such as materials science and engineering, chemical sciences and engineering, biological sciences, nuclear science and engineering, neutron science, and computing and computational sciences.

With appointments spanning the first three years of their employment at ORNL, Distinguished Staff Fellows (DSFs) are expected to conduct scientific research of the highest quality and impact, enabling them to become leaders in their fields. In addition, DSFs are selected for leadership skills that will allow them to be outstanding representatives of the Laboratory in their interactions with colleagues and with the U.S. Department of Energy (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.

Targeted Research Directions

The candidates must demonstrate their research ability to contribute to one (or more) of ORNL’s current major initiatives in science and technology, listed here:

  • Accelerating the discovery and design of new materials and chemical processes for energy
  • Scaling computing and data analytics to exascale and beyond
  • Advancing the science and impact of neutrons
  • Advancing the scientific basis for breakthrough nuclear technologies and systems
  • Advancing the understanding of complexity in biological and environmental systems
  • Enhancing strategic capabilities in isotope R&D and production
  • Accelerating R&D and manufacturing of integrated energy systems
  • Delivering science and technology to address complex security challenges

We are also expanding our research efforts in the following areas:

  • Cyber Physical Systems
  • Quantum Materials and Information Sciences
  • Quantitative Biology and Genome Security
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Applicants are encouraged to identify which of these initiatives align with their expertise.

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 held leadership positions at ORNL.

Dr. Liane B. Russell, ORNL’s groundbreaking geneticist, National Academy of Sciences member, and prominent conservationist. Russell Fellows primarily demonstrate competency in broad areas of biological sciences, biomolecular chemistry, computational biology, and environmental and ecosystem sciences.

Dr. Alvin M. Weinberg, the longest serving director of ORNL (1955–1972), a passionate advocate for nuclear energy whose interest in science policy placed him at the intersection of science and technology with society. Weinberg Fellows generally align with the applied, experimental, and computational sciences and demonstrate competency in areas such as chemistry and chemical engineering, radiochemistry, materials science and engineering, nuclear science and engineering, and manufacturing science and engineering.


Dr. Eugene P. Wigner, 1963 Nobel Laureate in physics and first director of research and development at ORNL (1946–47), whose vision continues to be reflected in the Laboratory’s multidisciplinary programs. Wigner Fellows generally align with the fundamental sciences and demonstrate competency in areas such as advanced materials, chemistry, computational science, neutron scattering, nuclear physics, and plasma and fusion energy sciences.

Qualifications Required

Applicants must have received their doctoral degree in a science or engineering field before their start date and can be no more than five years beyond receiving their highest technical degree at the date of application submission.

Current ORNL postdoctoral researchers and ORNL staff members are not eligible to apply.


The Wigner, Weinberg and Russell Fellowships are jointly posted as the ORNL Distinguished Staff Fellowship Program. The next application window will open in August 2019. If you have questions, please email