The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) is a national leader in science education and research, with programs dating back to 1946 and having served as an official U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) institute since 1992.
The institute that eventually became what is known today as ORISE was the brainchild of University of Tennessee (UT) physics professor Dr. William G. Pollard. Aware of the valuable assets on hand in Oak Ridge, Tenn., as part of the Manhattan Project, Pollard talked about the possibility of aligning regional universities with the scientific resources and state-of-the-art equipment in Oak Ridge.
On Oct. 17, 1946, Pollard’s vision became a reality when the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies (ORINS) received a charter of incorporation from the state of Tennessee. Fourteen southern schools signed on as ORINS charter members, and the consortium began with Pollard serving as the director of ORINS.
Naturally, education was at the heart of ORINS early initiatives. The Graduate Training Program was the first in a legacy of student research participation programs that continue to offer graduate students the opportunity to carry out thesis or dissertation research at the federal governmental laboratories. Similarly, ORINS initiated a Research Participation Program, which continues to bring university faculty members to federal facilities.
In 1948, ORINS was asked by the Atomic Energy Commission to establish a clinical research program that would research the treatment and diagnoses of diseases through the use of radioactive materials. By 1950, ORINS had set up a cancer research hospital and accepted its first patient.
Many patients came to the ORINS hospital in hopes of finding a cure via the new treatments offered by the innovative powers of radiation. Although the hospital closed in the mid 1970s, the Medical Division that formed as a result of the hospital became a national resource for physicians in search of knowledge about nuclear medicine—a growing field at the time.
ORINS continued to build on its knowledge of science education and research. Through its Medical Division and Special Training Programs, courses about radioisotopes were taught and resident training programs were established. Since those initial courses in the late 1940s, thousands of participants from around the world have participated in and benefited from ORINS’ programs.
In 1966, ORINS changed its name to Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), which manages ORISE on behalf of DOE.
Although the name has changed, the mission remains the same. ORISE continues to focus on researching health risks from occupational hazards, assessing environmental cleanup, responding to radiation medical emergencies, supporting national security and emergency preparedness, and educating the next generation of scientists.