When Frances Garcia of Lenoir City, Tennessee, was a physics major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, she held research assistant fellowships at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “I met a lot of great male and female scientists and I was able to truly study and pursue my interests. Electrical engineering became my favorite,” says Garcia (’15, ’18), who now works in that field for the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana.
UT is one of the only universities in the country with a partnership that pairs students with researchers and professors at a national lab. In this partnership, ORNL offers opportunities for student engagement in exciting research in physics, chemistry, materials science, electrical engineering, data science, and quantum computing.
Research is carried out by professors who hold joint appointments at UT and ORNL, such as Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy Sarah Cousineau—who also leads the Beam Science and Technology Group at ORNL’s Spallation Neutron Source Project, where Garcia worked with her on several projects.
“There are a lot of benefits to working at ORNL,” says Garcia. “I was lucky enough to have mentors who had me sit in meetings and participate. Instead of feeling like you’re an intern or an outsider, they treated me like a scientist and would listen to me if I had something to say. They had me present things in meetings and write papers, and I had some of them published.
“It’s like they were teaching me how to be a scientist and see how it’s done.”