As part of the 2023 National Society of Black Physicists Annual Conference, about 300 students and professionals visited the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory to learn about research opportunities in fields such as quantum science, computing, fusion science, nuclear energy, and isotope science and engineering.
ORNL and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, co-hosted the conference Nov. 9-12, 2023, with the theme "Frontiers in Physics: From Quantum to Materials to the Cosmos.” As part of the three-day conference held near UT, attendees took a 30-mile trip to the ORNL campus for facility tours, science talks and workshops.
Attendees represented universities and colleges across the country, including many historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions.
“This conference was a big opportunity for ORNL to introduce students to our student programs and share opportunities for research collaborations,” said Chris Beatty, chief operating officer of ORNL’s Fusion and Fission Energy and Science Directorate and an NSBP member.
Working with Protocol and Community Engagement staff Annette Brun and Jen Giffin, Beatty led the effort to bring the conference to ORNL, making this the first time the conference has been hosted at a national laboratory.
“As a student, I knew about the national labs, but I didn’t get to visit one, so I never really got the concept. When the conference came to Knoxville, one of the things that I wanted to see happen was for people to come here on campus to see ORNL,” Beatty said.
What did participants see? The world’s fastest supercomputer, Frontier; the world’s most intense neutron source, the Spallation Neutron Source; the world’s first permanent nuclear reactor, the Graphite Reactor; and a key U.S. research reactor, the High Flux Isotope Reactor, were all on the tour agenda.
NSBP members received a virtual welcome from DOE Office of Science Director Asmeret Asefaw Berhe and an introduction from ORNL Director Stephen Streiffer, Deputy for Science and Technology Susan Hubbard and Chief Human Resources Officer Brian Arrington. Chief Inclusion Officer Delphia Howze opened a session on student programs and career pathways.
Employee resource group members from ORNL’s eight ERGs, such as the African American Resource Council and Women’s Alliance Council, volunteered during the event and shared information about the ERGs and ORNL as a workplace.
“At ORNL, we strongly uphold the belief that science should be accessible to all, and our ongoing efforts aim to foster an environment where every person feels a sense of belonging through inclusivity,” Howze said. “Therefore, it's crucial to collaborate with groups like NSBP. By backing students and professionals traditionally underrepresented in STEM, we pave the way for our lab's future success.”
ORNL staff and NSBP attendees held collaborative workshop discussions on topics such as quantum science, physics and chemistry, and ORNL science directorates hosted tables to share information with attendees during the event. Staff also had the opportunity to hear from NSBP student speakers about their research.
“We had great participation from all the directorates and ERGs,” Beatty said. “We also had some space for other national labs in attendance. The main goal I wanted to achieve was to educate this group about the national labs, and I think we did that.”
UT-Battelle manages ORNL for DOE’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit energy.gov/science.