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RENEW group posing in front of the Zeanah Engineering Building lab

UT Hosts DOE-Funded Fusion Summer School

Striving to help increase the participation of underrepresented groups in fusion and plasma science, the Department of Nuclear Engineering hosted the inaugural University of Tennessee/Oak Ridge National Laboratory Fusion Summer School May 28–31 in the Zeanah Engineering Complex.

The summer school was supported by an award from the Department of Energy’s Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce (RENEW) program. RENEW’s goal is to build foundations for Office of Science (SC) research at institutions historically underrepresented in the SC research portfolio. The program intends to establish sustained research and student training opportunities between minority-serving institutions (MSIs) and DOE national laboratories.

Casali teaching a class of students at the Fusion Summer School

UT’s summer school was led by NE Professors Livia Casali and David Donovan, and ORNL’s Ted Biewer.

The event included four RENEW interns from three MSIs participating in the award: Tennessee State University, Lane College, and Fisk University. Three faculty members from TSU and Lane College participated, including the lead principal investigator for the award, Nicholas Wolff, an assistant professor of physics at Lane College. In addition, 12 incoming ORNL interns participated at the request of their ORNL mentors.

Focus of the Fusion Summer School

The one-week intensive course enabled participating students to become familiar with the graduate education opportunities relevant to fusion at UT in nuclear engineering, material science, mechanical engineering, and interdisciplinary research.

RENEW Fusion Summer School group learning from a professor in a lab

The week included introductory lectures on various topics, lab visits and demonstrations, UT graduate student panel discussions, and ORNL guest lecturers. One of the primary goals of the summer school was to allow interns to get to know each other and become comfortable interacting with UT faculty, UT grad students, and ORNL scientists.

“Our first UT/ORNL Fusion Summer School was a great success and brought undergraduate students from across the country to visit UT and learn about fusion research with guided discussions by UT faculty and students on research taking place at the university,” Donovan said. “This was a great opportunity for UT to engage with students from schools across Tennessee that do not typically focus on fusion research and connect them to a network of mentors and peers to help them navigate the field. We are looking forward to inviting students to campus again next year.”


Rhiannon Potkey (865-974-0683,