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Forging alliances: Workshop unites ORNL, Vanderbilt University to power nanoscience collaborations

Attendees of the second collaborative ORNL-Vanderbilt University workshop met at ORNL. Credit: Alonda Hines/ORNL, U.S. Department of Energy


When the second collaborative ORNL-Vanderbilt University workshop took place on Sept. 18-19 at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, about 70 researchers and students assembled to share thoughts concerning a broad spectrum of topics.

While the main theme was energy and materials, the meeting’s content also delved into climate impact, decarbonization, machine learning, electronics, neutron science and plastics upcycling.

The workshop aims to establish strong partnerships between the two institutions in nanoscience research and help expand the ORNL scientific user facility communities.

“This event is very interactive,” said ORNL scientist Valentino Cooper, one of the workshop’s organizers. “We could exchange ideas and get to learn what people are working on and are excited about at ORNL as well as Vanderbilt. We also had an opportunity to see where overlap and potential for joint research directions exist.”

Speakers from both institutions presented talks on different aspects of materials research, including synthesis, advanced characterization and applications, and theory and computing. The workshop also featured a poster session and tours of the Graphite Reactor and the Spallation Neutron Source.

Olivia Eldridge Owens of Vanderbilt earned the People’s Choice Award for her poster, “Electrochemical Biosensors for Studying Preterm Birth.”

“The diverse subject matter offered an eye-opening experience for many of the Vanderbilt students, and I know they were impressed by ORNL’s historical Graphite Reactor and world-leading neutron facilities,” said co-organizer De-en Jiang of Vanderbilt.

Social dynamics brought a powerful dimension to the two days of activities.

“The discussions that happened during the breaks and poster session were as impactful as the formal presentations,” said co-organizer Sharon Weiss of Vanderbilt. “Making personal connections goes a long way toward fruitful collaborations.”  

Workshop organizers from ORNL, along with Cooper from the Materials Science and Technology Division, included Santa Jansone-Popova of the Chemical Sciences Division, Naresh Osti of the Neutron Scattering Division and Michelle Allen of the Materials Science and Technology Division.

Joining Jiang and Weiss as co-organizers from Vanderbilt were Sokrates Pantelides and Jason Valentine.

Another ORNL-Vanderbilt University workshop is planned for Oct. 9. It will focus on climate change and environmental justice.

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