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KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have named physics professor Lee Riedinger as director of the UTK/ORNL Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education (CIRE).

Riedinger joined the physics faculty at UT Knoxville in 1971. He has held various administrative positions at UT Knoxville before returning to teaching and research, most recently as interim vice chancellor for research in 2006-07. Riedinger has also played an integral role in strengthening the relationship between UT Knoxville and ORNL in his posts as ORNL’s deputy director for science and technology beginning in 2000 and associate laboratory director for university partnerships in 2004-06.

CIRE was developed after state legislation passed in January 2010 authorizing the university to establish an academic unit of UT Knoxville for interdisciplinary research and graduate education in collaboration with ORNL. By combining the educational resources of the state’s largest flagship institution with the research capabilities of the Department of Energy’s largest science and energy laboratory, CIRE will provide expanded opportunities for graduate students in energy-related sciences and engineering.

The center aims to add 20 to 40 high caliber graduate students each year, moving the university closer to its goal of becoming a Top 25 research institution.

“Lee’s impressive accomplishments in nuclear physics research, dedication to teaching and experience in enhancing the relationship between UT Knoxville and ORNL makes him the perfect person to lead this unprecedented center,” Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek said.

CIRE will be home to one of the first interdisciplinary doctoral programs in energy science and engineering (ESE). Students will be able to specialize in nuclear energy, bioenergy and biofuels, renewable energy, energy conversion and storage, distributed energy and grid management, and environmental and climate sciences related to energy. Recruitment for the program will begin this fall.

CIRE also will be home to the newly created UTK-ORNL Distinguished Graduate Fellowship Program, in which students may pursue existing doctoral programs with concentrations in computational science and engineering, materials science and engineering, and nuclear science and engineering. The first class of fellows began studies this fall.

Both the ESE degree program and the UTK-ORNL Distinguished Graduate Fellowship program include an emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, including opportunities for interested students to develop and implement business plans with the UT Knoxville College of Business Administration. CIRE students will join interdisciplinary research teams at ORNL and UT Knoxville that will expose them to large-scale, problem-oriented research and development. The students are encouraged to develop their research in the context of potential solutions to important national problems and will be given the tools and support to follow an entrepreneurial path consistent with their interests.

“Our country faces huge challenges for the future in meeting increasing energy needs in a sustainable manner,” Riedinger said. “I am convinced that the university and laboratory together can contribute greatly in this arena and in the process educate some of the future leaders in the energy enterprise.”

Thom Mason, director of ORNL, said the new graduate program represents the maturing of a partnership that began more than 60 years ago. “By leveraging the facilities and talent of the laboratory, we have the chance to help UT strengthen its research program with students who also will contribute to ORNL’s energy research,” he said.

Riedinger also served as director of the UT Science Alliance Center of Excellence for five years in the late 1980s, associate vice chancellor for research from 1991 to 1995, head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy from 1996 to 2000 and the first chair of the Tennessee Science and Technology Advisory Council from 1993 to 1996. In 2000, Riedinger helped lead the formation of UT-Battelle LLC and the successful competition to assume the management of ORNL, becoming ORNL’s deputy director for science and technology. In this role and as associate laboratory director for university partnerships starting in 2004, he worked to extend the capabilities of the laboratory through joint programs at UT Knoxville and other leading universities. In 2007, he returned to teaching and research in the physics department. His research focuses on the properties of nuclei at the limits of stability, produced in accelerator-based experiments. Riedinger was also the 2008 Macebearer.

CIRE and the related degree program are being initiated with $6.2 million in start-up funding, provided through a one-time commitment of Gov. Bredesen to UT Knoxville.


Whitney Holmes (865-974-5460,