Undergraduate Scholarships ORISE offers scholarship opportunities to all undergraduate students
The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education offers a chance to earn scholarships to all undergraduate students. Students can earn funding toward their education through various STEM-based scholarship opportunities promoted by ORISE.
Solarpunk Futures: Illustrating the Future of Solar
The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technology Office (SETO) is at the forefront of solar energy research, accelerating the advancement and deployment of solar technology in support of an equitable transition to a decarbonized economy. Funding from across the office supports everything from technical advancement to market preparedness to using solar energy as a tool for energy justice. Translating the funding efforts across SETO, and the potential for solar technology, is vital to the office’s mission. At this same time, an art movement called Solarpunk has organically cropped up to illustrate the possibilities of a sustainable future.
To continue SETO’s work while harnessing this movement, ORISE is hosting a research-based challenge for undergraduate students! The challenge is for students to create a Solarpunk art piece that communicates the potential of the technology the office is funding. Thorough submissions will include research on the office’s funding that will inform the piece of art created, a focus on communicating the potential of SETO’s research, and a short supporting document explaining the concept behind the piece. Your Solarpunk art piece could win you a $5,000 scholarship!
- 1st place: $5,000 scholarship
- 2nd place: $3,000 scholarship
- 3rd place: $1,000 scholarship
Many of the solutions to the climate crisis are being funded through SETO, but it can be difficult to demonstrate the potential of the technology to the public. Bridging this communication gap and ensuring that the funding from the government can be seen as effective, is key to reaching the administration’s climate goals. Additionally, there is a growing sentiment of pessimism around climate change that could have dangerous health consequences and limit the motivation to support solutions for a more sustainable future. This is where Solarpunk art can help communicate optimism around the climate crisis and our solutions!
Create an art piece using the tenets of Solarpunk that communicates the research and funding of SETO to a general audience. Thorough submissions will include research on the office’s funding that will inform the piece of art created and a focus on communicating the potential of SETO’s research. Art pieces should be accompanied by a supporting document explaining the concept behind the piece including a description of the art and the inspiration for the piece. You must provide supporting evidence, using standard citation formats such as Chicago footnotes, APA, or MLA. Examples of the art piece could be, but are not limited to:
- Short Written Story
- Musical Composition
Art will be submitted digitally. If necessary, a photo, video, or audio recording of the art may be submitted.
- To be eligible for this scholarship, you must currently be enrolled as an undergraduate student at a college or university and must be enrolled as an undergraduate student at a college or university in the next consecutive semester.
- This scholarship will not apply to your current semester, but to the next semester in which you are enrolled.
- If you are a senior and will be graduating as an undergraduate student at the end of your current semester, you are not eligible for this undergraduate scholarship.
- A submission should include the following:
- 1) Art piece
- Communicates technologies that SETO is funding
- Allows viewers to engage with a sustainable future through SETO funding
- Educates the public on solar energy
- 2) Supporting document explaining the concept behind the piece with citations.
- 1) Art piece
- Entries must be submitted on the following form: https://orausurvey.orau.org/n/solarpunkfutures.aspx
- All entries will be scored on a rubric.
- You can read about the Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO)
- Information on SETO’s solar energy research areas can be found
- Information on Solarpunk can be found here.
- Use of additional sources is encouraged.
- Entries should convey accurate information appropriately to the general public.
- Explore ORISE internships and fellowships HERE!
How to Enter:
- To enter the contest, complete the form at https://orausurvey.orau.org/n/solarpunkfutures.aspx and attach your artwork and supporting document files. The deadline to submit is 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Sunday, April 30th, 2023.
View past scholarship opportunities and winners
The Department of Energy (DOE) launched the Carbon Negative Shot to advance the development of the emerging and necessary carbon dioxide removal industry. Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) plays a critical role in helping the United States address the current climate crisis, as well as achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) facilitated the DOE Carbon Negative Shot Summit in July 2022 to increase collaboration on this effort. Despite the many efforts that have been made so far towards CDR, there is still a lot of work to be done.
To continue that work, ORISE is hosting a research-based challenge for undergraduate students! The challenge is for students to develop an infographic to communicate the current leading ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Thorough submissions will include research on at least four current carbon dioxide removal methods, as well as research on new developments in carbon dioxide removal. Your infographic could win you a $5,000 scholarship!
- 1st Place: Jose A., University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, Carbon Dioxide Removal, Reducing our Footprint (.pdf, 5.3mb)
- 2nd Place: Sydney Lin, Vanderbilt University, Carbon Dioxide Removal, An Elemental Adventure (.pdf, 901.7kb)
- 3rd Place: Michael Greenberg, Stevens Institute of Technology, Carbon Dioxide Removal,
Saving Our Atmosphere Before it's Too Late (.pdf, 857.2kb)
- 1st place: $5,000 scholarship
- 2nd place: $3,000 scholarship
- 3rd place: $1,000 scholarship
The world is facing an urgent need to stop the increase of atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) levels and their devastating impact of climate change. In order to reach our global climate goals, extensive amounts of CO2 must be removed from our atmosphere every year by mid-century. The DOE hosted the Carbon Negative Shot Summit to increase collaboration on this effort and to open up a door that is essential to moving towards our goal.
Develop an infographic to communicate to the public the current leading ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Thorough submissions will include recent scientific and technological research and developments in carbon dioxide removal, as well as research on new developments in carbon dioxide removal. You must provide supporting evidence, using footnotes for citations on the infographic, and have a supporting document with additional information.
Quantum information science and technology (QIST) is an emerging field of study that helps to explain the world around us at the smallest level. It is based on quantum mechanics which describes how the particles that make up atoms work and is often described as strange or even spooky. How can we communicate quantum science in a way that is accessible to everyone?
ORISE is hosting a research-based challenge for undergraduate students! The challenge is for students to create a video for a hypothetical museum exhibit to teach the public the basics and applications of QIST. Include research on new developments in quantum science and technologies, as well as information about how the applications of quantum science can or will affect our everyday lives. Your video could win you a $5,000 scholarship!
- 1st place: Lylybell Teran, Adelphi University, Learn the basics of Quantum Science with Lylybell Teran! (video)
- 2nd place: Mycale Radcliffe, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Quantum Information Science & Technology (video)
- 3rd place: Aniruddha Pokhrel, Howard University, Quantum Science and Technology (video)
Informal education is needed to help the public develop an understanding of quantum science. This emerging field focuses on tiny particles which are the building blocks of matter, but can be used to build the most precise clocks in the world, sense tiny changes in gravitational fields beneath the surface of the earth, or navigate in GPS-denied environments. An understanding of quantum science will be useful in exploring physics, biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, and a host of other fields. However, many people find quantum science a daunting subject and therefore don’t explore it.
Imagine that you have been asked by your local science museum to help to clarify the mystery surrounding quantum science and applications by developing a video for their new quantum science exhibit. Create a 4-6 minute video to communicate a key concept or important basic elements of quantum science to the public. Thorough submissions will include background information, applications of quantum science, recent scientific and technological research and developments in quantum mechanics, as well as information on how quantum science can or will affect our lives every day. You must provide supporting evidence and have a supporting document with citations from your research.
The Department of Energy (DOE) is investing $25 million to focus on polymer upcycling and plastic waste reuse. This research aims to develop technologies that will increase the use of plastic waste and lower the expense associated with plastic production. Polymer upcycling has the potential to convert plastic waste into chemical, fuels, and other valuable products. This plastic waste can be collected through recycling efforts.
Recycling, in the public eye, seems to be a modern concept with new machines being used to recycle waste, however the origin of recycling is centuries old. Recycling has evolved from being an in-home process out of necessity, to being a process valued by businesses, schools, and the government.
The Oak Ridge Institute for Science Education (ORISE) is hosting a research based challenge for undergraduate students! The challenge is for students to develop a website on plastic recycling. Students will research their schools’ current process for recycling plastic and then design/create a strategy to make the process more efficient. Thorough submissions will include further research on the plastic recycling process, benefits of current recycling methods, and process improvement ideas. Your website could win you a $5,000 scholarship!
- 1st place: Ayden Armstrong, Washington State University, https://cougsfortomorrow.site
- 2nd place: Dalton Loveless, University of Tennessee, https://mean-green-machines.myportfolio.com/home
- 3rd place: Kellien Peritz, Penn State University, https://sites.psu.edu/plasticrecycling/
According to National Geographic the world generates at least 3.5 million tons of plastic and other solid waste a day. This is 10 times the amount the world produced a century ago. Waste negatively effects our natural environment and this negative impact continues to grow. Awareness needs to be brought to recycling and upcycling efforts. DOE is doing its part to mitigate the lasting effects of plastic waste buildup through new research and development into upcycling polymers. Many communities have developed recycling programs to help with energy efficiency and preserving our natural environment.
Create a website to inform the public on recycling and how it is done at your school. Submissions should include recent scientific research on recycling, as well as possible enhancements to recycling programs at your school. You must provide supporting evidence using citations in your website.
More than 700 undergraduate students participate in ORISE internships and research placements each year. Many of these participants are now doing their research from home due to the pandemic. The transition from normal social activities to working and learning from home has taken a toll on American society.
Prior to the pandemic, “crisis” was a common term used among researchers and experts when discussing the mental state of college students. According to 2018 and 2019 student surveys from the American College Health Association (ACHA), about 60% of respondents felt "overwhelming" anxiety, while 40% experienced depression so severe they had difficulty functioning. The additional stress of a pandemic and the move to virtual learning and working has only exasperated the problem. One way to better mental health is creating healthy habits.
ORISE is hosting a hands-on challenge for undergraduate students! The challenge is for students to research healthy habits for good mental health; commit to one healthy habit for 21 days; and develop either an infographic or podcast detailing the research and experience. The infographic or podcast should discuss your healthy habit and why other students should (or should not) use your method to better their own mental health. Your infographic or podcast could win you a $5,000 scholarship! The deadline for submitting your entry to this competition is Wednesday, March 31, 2021, and winners will be announced late-April.
Prior to COVID-19, college students were already experiencing a mental health crisis. In October 2020, a survey of college students found that 63% of students say that their emotional health is worse than before the COVID-19 pandemic and 56% of students are significantly concerned with their ability to care for their mental health. Furthermore, it was found that a high proportion of students are dealing with anxiety (82%), followed by social isolation/loneliness (68%), depression (63%), trouble concentrating (62%), and difficulty coping with stress in a healthy way (60%). One in five (19%) students have had suicidal thoughts in the past month.
- 1st place: Julia Catalano, The Ohio State University, Effects of Social Media Use on Undergraduate Students’ Mental Health during the COVID-19 Pandemic Podcast, and supporting document (.PDF, 942 KB)
- 2nd place: Marah Shulda, University of Kansas School of Engineering Newsletter, The Effect of Walking for Thirty Minutes a Day on Students Mental and Physical Health (.PDF, 435 KB), and supporting document (.PDF, 945 KB)
- 3rd place: Wesleigh L Jarrell, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Light and Lucid Podcast and supporting document (.PDF, 352 KB)
October 2020 Undergraduate Scholarship Competition
Water Purification: The Wave of the Future
Congratulations to the winners!
- 1st place: Ryan Warrick, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Drinking Water Purification (.PDF, 764 KB)
- 2nd place: Ashaya KC, University of North Texas, Water Purification: Hope Amidst the Global Water Crisis (.PDF, 9 MB)
- 3rd place: Joseph Kready, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Water Purification (.PDF, 3 MB)
Water purification is a leading technological advancement in first world countries that is out of reach in many developing countries. UNICEF and WHO report that one in three people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water. Although the United States has one of the safest drinking water supplies in the world, it is an ongoing challenge to protect it.
ORISE is hosting a research-based challenge for undergraduate students! The challenge is for students to develop an infographic to communicate the current leading ways to purify drinking water. Thorough submissions will include research on new developments in water purification, as well as research on providing these methods to developing countries. Your infographic could win you a $5,000 scholarship!
Diseases transmitted through contaminated water are rampant throughout the world. According to the World Health Organization, more than one billion people have unsafe water globally. Unsafe water can carry diseases like typhoid fever, cholera, giardia, E. coli, hepatitis A, and many more. The United States has one of the safest drinking water supplies in the world, though it still has to be purified and protected in order to prevent rampant diseases.
Develop an infographic to communicate to the public the current leading ways to purify water. Thorough submissions will include recent scientific and technological research and developments in water purification, as well as research on providing these methods of water purification to developing countries. You must provide supporting evidence, using footnotes for citations on the infographic, and have a supporting document with additional information.
REAC/TS is an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education facility with the mission to strengthen the medical response to radiological and nuclear incidents. REAC/TS has recently partnered with NASA to provide specialized knowledge for the medical community and emergency planners in the area around the upcoming Mars Rover Launch. ORISE is hosting a research-based challenge for undergraduate students to research a partner supporting NASA’s upcoming Mars 2020 Launch, learn about the partner’s capabilities, and discuss why that partner is necessary for the mission.
- 1st place: Ailene Edwards, University of Virginia, NASA & the Radiation Emergency Assistance Center/Training Site: A Valuable Partnership (.PDF, 348 KB)
- 2nd place: Juan Pablo Varela, University at Albany, SUNY; Sierra Nevada Corporation: Safely Landing the Perseverance (.PDF, 3 MB)
- 3rd place: Rebecca Bennett, University of California, Berkeley; Mitigating the Risk of Harm From Radiation Exposure (.PDF, 129 KB)
As many undergraduate students may recall, NASA’s Space Shuttle Program completed its mission in 2011. However, in recent years, NASA has launched an exciting, new program: Mars 2020. In this upcoming launch, NASA will be sending a rover to explore the Red Planet and search for signs of habitability and past microbial life. NASA has joined forces with many groups, including REAC/TS, an ORISE facility. Your challenge is to research a partner that is aiding NASA’s Mars 2020 Mission, learn about that partner’s capabilities, and discuss why that partner is necessary for the mission.
Autonomous and connected vehicles have the potential to improve the safety and efficiency of the transportation system. ORISE in partnership with the National Transportation Research Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is hosting a problem-based challenge for undergraduate students. The challenge for undergraduates is to develop a chart or infographic to communicate the levels of autonomous driving and sensor packages required to the public.
- 1st place: Tergel Molom-Ochir, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Autonomous Driving and Its Sensor Technology (.PDF, 1 MB)
- 2nd place: Jeleasa Grayned, Kennesaw State University, SAE International: Levels of Autonomous Driving & Sensor Packages (.PDF, 898 KB)
- 3rd place: Aufia Zhowandai, Virginia Commonwealth University, Autonomous Vehicles (.PDF, 855 KB)
The Problem: Autonomous and connected vehicles have the potential to improve the safety and efficiency of the transportation system. Vehicles that are able to automatically drive themselves in any condition or situation require a number of advanced sensors such as LIDAR, RADAR, and cameras, in addition to a fast communication network to communicate to each other and the traffic signal infrastructure in near real-time. The public is not yet generally familiar with the different levels of autonomy or the sensor packages and fidelity of the sensors needed for the different levels. In an effort to better inform the public about SAE levels of autonomous driving, what is the best way to put that information in a single chart?
The task: Develop a draft chart or infographic to communicate to the public the levels of autonomous driving and the sensor packages. You must provide supporting evidence using footnotes for citations on the chart/infographic and have a supporting document with additional information.
Technology plays a key role in many fields, but it is not without limitations. Although technology has helped to make great advancements in data collection, there are times that the instruments themselves interfere in the measurements. ORISE is hosting a problem-based challenge for undergraduate students. The challenge for undergraduates is to identify a situation in which an instrument interferes with its own measurements and data collection, and to propose a solution to the problem.
- 1st place: Le Nguyen, Michigan State University, Neural Networks as a Solution to Spontaneous Emission in the IceCube Neutrino Detector (.PDF, 501 KB)
- 2nd place: Sayem Sinha, Syracuse University, Surveying in Science: “Fixing” the 2016 Election Polls (.PDF, 1 MB)
- 3rd place: Marina Beshai, Princeton University, The US Census: The Effective Silence of Underrepresented Groups (.PDF, 135 KB)
Ed Dumas, an affiliate of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), explained a problem in using drones as an instrument to measure weather data: Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division (ATDD) has been making wind measurements for years using gust probes attached to fixed-wing full-scale aircraft, and this technology is well-characterized. Probes have been tested in a wind tunnel and the uncertainty in both the wind measurements made from the gust probe and the velocity and angles (pitch, roll, and heading) of the platform itself that are combined to make the final wind measurement have been accurately characterized. Because NOAA has been able to characterize the uncertainty in each of the components that comprise the wind measurement, there is confidence in the ability of the overall system to accurately measure winds with respect to the Earth.
However, similar measurements are not as well characterized from a multi-rotor platform. The biggest challenge is the disruption of the local airflow that is made by the multiple propellers used to keep the vehicle aloft. Eddies from these propellers can destroy the existing eddies in the atmosphere and severely contaminate the wind measurement.
Drones measuring wind gusts are not the only example of an instrument interfering with its own measurements. Another example is attempting to measure absolute zero on the Kelvin scale using a thermometer. At absolute zero (-273.15 degrees Celsius), atoms stop moving. Absolute zero cannot currently be measured because the particles of the thermometer are moving, which raises the temperature of the substance being measured by keeping the atoms in motion. While this temperature difference is an insignificant amount at temperatures that we experience daily, it is a major problem when measuring absolute zero. So while the thermometer readings can approach absolute zero, the current thermometer technology is not capable of accurately measuring it.
There has been a significant increase in usage of nuclear power plants in the past 60 years, which comes along with an increased need for attention on nuclear safety. ORISE hosted a problem-based challenge for undergraduate students. The challenge for undergraduates was to develop a plan to improve nuclear safety for the future. Congratulations to our scholarship winners!
- 1st place: Lukas Poteracke, San Diego State University, Nuclear Reactors: The Frontier of Energy Innovation (.PDF, 117 KB)
- 2nd place: Aryobimo Wibowoputro, San Diego State University, Threats of Nuclear Power and Plans for the Future (.PDF, 626 KB)
- 3rd place: Cole Maguire, University of Texas at Austin, The Future of Nuclear Power (.PDF, 434 KB)
Despite living in a world of constant radiation exposure, people have a negative association with the word “radiation.” In March, ORISE hosted a problem-based challenge for undergraduate students. The challenge for undergraduates was to develop a strategic communication approach for the general public on the everyday occurrences of radiation, the benefits, risks, and safety of all types and uses of radiation.
- 1st place: Julia Trainor, Syracuse University, #RadiationReimagined: Strategic Communications Report (.PDF, 764 KB)
- 2nd place: Cole Maguire, University of Texas at Austin, Radiation and Its Communication to the Public (.PDF, 651 KB)
- 3rd place: Ian Wietecha-Reiman, Penn State University, Radiation Exposure PSA Proposal: Using the Internet to Placate Fears (.PDF, 465 KB)