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Frequently Asked Questions

1. How is an ORNL Distinguished Staff Fellowship different from a postdoctoral appointment?

A postdoctoral appointment is temporary. Distinguished Staff Fellows join ORNL as independent, early-career research staff and are retained beyond their 3-year term if mutually beneficial to ORNL and the Fellow. A Distinguished Staff Fellowship is like a tenure-track position at a university; Fellows are given an opportunity to advance their scientific experience and are envisioned to pursue a long-term career at ORNL.

2. Do I need to apply for a specific fellowship?

The fellowships (Russell, Weinberg, and Wigner) are jointly posted on, so you apply to the program rather than a specific fellowship. The Laboratory designates the fellowship awarded to selected candidates based on their research area(s) of interest. 

3. What should I include in my research statement?

Research statements should be limited to two pages not including references. Please include the following:

Research Statement Title

Your name as Principal Investigator

Proposed Research Idea: Summarize the scientific/technical research idea you would like to pursue.


  • Explain why your proposed research is significant and its relationship to ORNL’s Targeted Research Directions.
  • Introduce your proposed fellowship scientific research, and your unique approach.

Research Plan:

  • Provide a brief overview of the background of this research, the vision of your fellowship research plan, and 2–3 specific objectives/aims.
  • For each aim, address the following:
    • Describe the scientific hypothesis to be tested or technical concept to be demonstrated to achieve the aim.
    • Discuss the methods, materials, facilities, and protocols to be employed and techniques for analyzing data and validating results.
    • Describe the expected results and impact (e.g., fundamental breakthroughs, enabling technologies) of this aim.
    • Provide a deliverable for each year of this fellowship.

Future Funding Possibilities

4. Do I need to make a connection with an ORNL staff scientist prior to my application?

You are not required to designate an ORNL mentor on your application. However, it is helpful to identify research groups at ORNL that align with your proposed research idea or research area(s) of interest. Please list ORNL research groups you identify as pertinent to your proposed research under the Significance section of your research statement.

5. How should reference letters be submitted?

You are responsible for requesting recommendation letters from references who have known you for at least 1 year. All references should submit their letters directly to Letters should be written on official letterhead, signed with a handwritten signature, and addressed to the DSF Selection Committee. Recommendation letters can be scanned for emailing. Please ask your references to include “DSF Selection Committee” and your name in the email subject line.

6. When do the application windows open and close, and when can I expect to be notified of my application status?

The application window for the Distinguished Staff Fellowship Program opens in January (the Winter call), May (the Spring call), and September (the Fall call). The open program call runs four weeks. Applicants’ résumés are reviewed for compliance, and then the selection committee conducts a review. Candidates are promoted within applicable divisions, and then down-selected candidates are interviewed.

We will announce application open cycles on the home page. Please check back for upcoming announcements. There is no specific date by which candidates can expect to be notified of their status, but ORNL understands that your job search is a dynamic process.

7. What if I have additional questions?

Please contact us at