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UNITED STATES - ACM Oak Ridge Science Semester

From current cutting-edge scientific research in energy and environmental issues, reaching back to its history as a pivotal element of the Manhattan Project in World War II, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is recognized as a leader in scientific and technological research.  Located in Oak Ridge Tennessee, and managed by the U.S. Department of Energy by UT-Battelle, scientists and engineers conduct basic and applied research in a wide variety of fields.  As the Department of Energy’s largest science and energy laboratory, their mission to advance the nation’s energy resources, environmental quality, and scientific knowledge provides an exciting and intellectually stimulating setting for science students looking to do rigorous research.

The Oak Ridge Science Semester (ORSS) enables students to join ongoing investigations at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in research areas as diverse as astrophysics, cell biology, DNA sequencing, genetic mutagenesis, parallel computing, robotics, toxicology, and much more. In their research, ORSS student participants use the sophisticated resources available at the Laboratory, including supercomputers, state-of-the-art electron microscopes, lasers, and analytical instruments such as a Fourier transform mass spectrometer and a scanning tunneling microscope.  Participants in this fall semester program join one of the research groups at ORNL, with a scientist from the ORNL staff serving as a mentor.  This research experience, using the Laboratory’s sophisticated resources, is the core of the program.  Students are expected to contribute significantly to the design and methodological approach of their research activity, and often find this the most demanding and rewarding experience of their college careers.


To be eligible to participate in this program, students must meet the following requirements:

  • Good academic and judicial standing during time of application AND time of participation in program
  • Undergraduates must have completed at least two semesters of study at Lake Forest College AND have junior status or higher before participation. 
  • At least 18 years of age by the program’s departure date. 
  • Be able to stay at the host program for the duration of the semester, including through the exam and travel periods
  • Minimum GPA of 3.0 with strong performance in the sciences

Whether it is a safe community, low crime, top-rated schools, parks, greenways, athletic fields, close proximity to a national park, or strong historical significance to our country, you will find it in Oak Ridge.

The City of Oak Ridge is located in the eastern part of the State, approximately 22 miles northwest of Knoxville. The City occupies a southern portion of Anderson County and an eastern portion of Roane County. Oak Ridge borders the Clinch River’s navigable waterway for 42 miles along the shores of Watts Bar and Melton Hill Lake.  


This program has 3 components:

  • Research at ORNL (8 semester hours)
  • Interdisciplinary seminar (4 semester hours)
  • Elective (4 semester hours)


Students on the Oak Ridge Program devote most of their time to research, with a scientist from the ORNL staff serving as a mentor.  The seminar is intended to broaden students’ perspectives and expose them to the wide range of research carried out at ORNL by staff scientists from many fields. Seminars are designed to stimulate students to think creatively by exposing them to current scientific research processes from multiple fields.  As scientific research becomes more interdisciplinary, connections between disciplines often lead to the next wave of scientific advancements.

The seminar series also includes field trips to acquaint students with some of the research facilities at ORNL.  During the latter part of the program, the seminar usually serves as a forum for students to present their own research data for discussion and comment.

Every resident Oak Ridge Science Semester faculty member offers a course in his or her discipline. The courses offered in a particular Fall are chosen to accommodate the the needs and interests of program participants.  In the past, ORSS faculty have offered courses in advance organic and inorganic chemistry, physical chemistry, biochemistry, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, abstract or linear algebra, differential equations, dynamical systems, econometrics and scientific computing. If necessary, courses also can be taught by ORNL staff scientists serving as adjunct faculty. (4 credits)

Students whose academic requirements are not met by any of the courses offered, may arrange with their home campus faculty for an independent study at Oak Ridge under the supervision of one of the resident faculty.

For more information, please visit the Oak Ridge academics page.

Student Life

Oak Ridge offers a variety of recreational activities that include:

 golf  rowing
 swimming  tennis
 soccer  hiking
 biking  disc golf
 basketball  billiards
 summer camps  softball

The City is home to Melton Hill Lake that is recognized as the home of the Oak Ridge rowing course.  Melton Hill Lake offers 173 miles of shoreline for boating, fishing, and rowing.  Melton Lake Greenway, one of Oak Ridge’s 12 beautiful greenways, runs along the western shore of Melton Hill Lake for people to enjoy scenic, outdoor activities. 

  Experiential Opportunities
Each student is expected to devote at least 35 hours per week to research on a specific project under the guidance of an ORNL staff scientist. This research experience is the core of the program. Students are expected to contribute significantly to the design and methodological approach of their research activity, and often find this the most demanding and rewarding experience of their college careers.
Housing and Meals

Housing is provided in an apartment complex in Oak Ridge. Two students share a one-bedroom apartment and provide their own linens and kitchen utensils. The housing rent (approximately $2,200/semester) is paid by the ORSS in the form of a housing allowance.

Students are responsible for their food, books and other personal expenses (estimated at $1,500).

Financial Information

For all approved programs for guaranteed financial aid transferability, students pay their Lake Forest College tuition plus a program fee. 

Here is an estimated budget for the Fall 2018/Spring 2019 programs:

Budget Item


Lake Forest College Tuition


Program fee (estimated)


Total Expected Billed by Lake Forest College


Estimated Airfare


Estimated Personal Expenses (passport, visas, immunizations, textbooks, supplies, personal expenses, additional national insurance if required, travel insurance, additional travel etc.)


Program Stipend (Expected)


Total Out-of-Pocket Expenses




Tuition rates and program fees are subject to change each year, but this information was up-to-date as of February 2018. We will notify applicants, and update this page if the program fee or other estimates change.

Typically, students participating in the Oak Ridge Science Semester receive a significant stipend and housing allowance, which help cover costs of the program. The amount of both the program stipend, which is disbursed to students in periodic payments through the fall term, and housing allowance are dependent each year on adequate funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

You can discuss with Financial Aid your specific aid package and your expected family contribution.

Keep in mind that you may spend more or less in certain areas like personal expenses, travel, meals, or airfare, depending on exchange rates and your own spending habits. Classroom or lab fees are not included in this estimate and will depend on your course registration choices.  

Don’t forget to apply for scholarships! A great listing can be found here.  

  • Contact:

    For Questions About the Initial Application Process:

    Alexandra Olson
    Coordinator of the Global Engagement Office