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Originally appeared in Friday, July 2, 2004 Oak Ridger

UT, ORNL chiefs eye bright future

ORNL DIRECTOR: 'Great labs have great universities associated with them. Great universities often have great labs.'

By: Paul Parson, Oak Ridger Staff

The relationship between Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee is already strong, but two high-ranking officials at those institutions hope things only get better as far as new buildings, work force recruitment and other things are concerned.

"The sky's the limit," said John Petersen during an interview Thursday - his first day on the job as UT's 23rd president. "All the pieces are there. For us, it's a matter of marshaling our internal resources."

ORNL Director Jeff Wadsworth agreed.

Photo of John Petersen and Jeff Wadsworth
Marie Moffitt/Staff
John Petersen, left, the University of Tennessee's new president, and Jeff Wadsworth, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, talk about the future working relationship of their institutions during an interview Thursday in Petersen's office.

"Great labs have great universities associated with them," Wadsworth said. "And, great universities often have great labs. We consider it a natural synergy."

ORNL is actually managed by a government contractor known as UT-Battelle - a partnership between UT and Battelle.

Since taking on the job in April 2000, the partnership has worked to get three state-funded joint research institutes up and running. Recently, officials dedicated the new building to house the Joint Institute for Computational Sciences, with the Joint Institute for Neutron Sciences and the Joint Institute for Biological Sciences waiting in the wings at different stages of development.

On Thursday, both Petersen and Wadsworth said another joint institute could eventually see the light of day, possibly focusing on material science.

"The joint institutes will naturally nurture relationships between faculty and researchers and that involves graduate students," said Wadsworth.

"So, we expect to have a natural evolution where people from the university come (to ORNL). But, we also want to build new programs and attract new faculty."

Both Petersen and Wadsworth said the success wouldn't be possible without the support from the state of Tennessee and its elected leaders.

Another way officials plan to capitalize on the UT and ORNL partnership is in the area of supercomputing. With ORNL building the world's fastest supercomputer, new high-speed networks will allow UT researchers to take advantage of research opportunities without even leaving the campus.

In Petersen's new role, he will serve on the UT-Battelle board, and he said he has already visited ORNL a couple of times before his first official day of work.

"I think that should tell you a little bit about how important I think this relationship is," he said.

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