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Advanced Short-Term Research Opportunity (ASTRO)

The ORNL Advanced Short-Term Research Opportunity Program is a highly selective and offers challenging short-term (1 to 12 months) research opportunities to students enrolled in a graduate program (for a MS or PhD degree), or to students who are recent recipients of a MS degree or MS equivalency. ASTRO participants conduct research in areas that support ORNL missions in the basic and applied sciences, energy, and environment.

Program Goals
The program’s goals are to:
  • Advance the participant's scientific skills and knowledge in areas of critical national need
  • Provide research opportunities for outstanding scientists
  • Promote the influx of new ideas and skills into the laboratory
  • Enhance interactions with the wider academic and research communities

The emphasis on a research mentoring approach allows ASTRO appointees to become integral members of ORNL research and development teams. The appointees gain exposure to current national issues in science and technology, have opportunities to share and exchange innovative ideas and techniques, and make significant contributions to ORNL programs. Depending on the nature of the research and availability of funding, participants are encouraged to publish and present research findings and write funding proposals as part of a research team to enhance their own professional development. The interaction of ideas, skills, approaches, and technologies will be of mutual benefit to the fellow and ORNL.

The ASTRO program is administered by the STEM Workforce Development Unit of the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), which is managed by Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) for the U.S. Department of Energy.

All contingencies of an appointment offer must be met before the applicant can begin an appointment.
Participants who are foreign nationals must receive approval and clearance from the U.S. Department of Energy. This process is initiated by ORNL and could take more than ten weeks. Foreign nationals must also show proof that they have a valid immigration status, which allows them to receive a stipend. Once an offer has been made, the ORISE Immigration Office can assist with obtaining and filing immigration documents.

We also must have, for all participants:
  1. Official English-language verification of your graduate education history and status -- all of the following that apply:
  • Previous official transcript showing enrollment in previous graduate program if left without degree completion
  • Current official transcript showing enrollment in graduate program when appointment begins OR Proof of current enrollment when appointment begins if not shown on official transcript
  • Verification of MS degree completion (official transcript or degree certificate) -- NOTE: if you have previously completed a Master's degree or equivalency, we require proof of that degree even if you're currently enrolled in another graduate program

  1. Two recommendation letters
  2. Current resume
  3. Abstract/reprint -- at least one of the following:
  4. a reprint of a journal article you have authored
  5. an abstract of a journal article you have authored
  6. an abstract of a conference presentation you have authored
  7. an abstract of your current research, even if unpublished

Appointment Period and Renewals
Appointments are available in all current research and development programs at the laboratory. There are no citizenship requirements for the ASTRO program, although specific research projects may have additional restrictions. The program accepts applications at any time. Appointments are for a minimum of three months or for as long as twelve months.

Participants receive a competitive monthly stipend based on their educational level, research area, and experience. The stipend is taxable.

Applicants must be enrolled in a master’s or doctoral degree program at an accredited instrituion, or hold a recent (within the past five years) Master's degree, or have a Master's equivalency, in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) area. Applications may be submitted at any time during the year, and appointments may begin at any time. Applicants also must be at least 18 years old before starting the program. The ASTRO program does not have citizenship requirements, but if the applicant is not a U.S. citizen, they must have a valid visa status allowing us to pay them a stipend.

Appointments involve a full-time commitment to the research program at ORNL, and the ASTRO participant must be in residence at ORNL during the entire period of the appointment. The participant's research must be conducted in a manner and according to a time schedule that meets the overall research needs of ORNL. To document the effectiveness of the program, participants are required to submit to ORISE a report when they renew or end their program tenure. These reports should summarize their research and include a copy of any publications resulting from their appointment. If future papers are published as a result of research they performed at ORNL, copies should be sent to ORISE.

ASTRO participants are required to have coverage under a health insurance plan and must provide proof of such coverage. It is your responsibility to secure insurance coverage before arriving at the appointment site.

  • Degree: Master's Degree or Doctoral Degree received within the last 60 month(s).

  • Computer Sciences 
  • Earth and Geosciences 
  • Engineering 
  • Environmental and Marine Sciences 
  • Life Health and Medical Sciences
  • Mathematics and Statistics 
  • Nanotechnology 
  • Other Physical Sciences 
  • Physics 
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences