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National Science Foundation IGERT training program sends young scientists to learn neutron scattering at ORNL

Flora Meilleur

Flora Meilleur, Course Organizer

Graduate student Annette Bodenheimer and Dr. Meilleur participated in an Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) workshop in neutron scattering conducted at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Spallation Neutron Source, February 25 through March 1. The workshop educated graduate students in the benefits of neutron scattering in (1) biological macromolecules and biomaterials, (2) the structure and dynamics of strongly correlated electronic materials, and (3) the design of artificial nanoscale materials.

IGERT is the NSF’s flagship interdisciplinary training program for PhD scientists and engineers from the United States. Since 1998, the program has made 215 awards to more than 100 universities in 41 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico and has provided funding for nearly 5,000 graduate students. Dr. Meilleur is a co-PI on an IGERT project led by Professor Haskell Taub, a Professor of Physics at the University of Missouri, Columbia, entitled “Neutron Scattering for the Science and Engineering of the 21st Century.”

IGERT students

IGERT students and participating ORNL Neutron Science Directorate scitentists.

The project’s principal mission is to train the next generation of “sophisticated users” of the nation’s premier neutron scattering facilities. In its IGERT program, the NSF anticipates that the most challenging problems in science and engineering will be addressed most effectively by interdisciplinary teams of researchers. The IGERT trainees participate in courses and research internships that promote team efforts in neutron scattering research that cross traditional disciplinary boundaries.

During the five-day workshop, 13 trainees learned how the latest developments in neutron scattering techniques are advancing important new science. The workshop included lectures, facility tours, and hands-on experience at selected instruments, where the students shadowed the staff instrument scientists, learned specifics about neutron instruments and data analysis, and how to work with users.


Student thoughts: Instrument shadowing allowed for students to interact with the instrument scientists to propose future research projects and get instant feedback on feasibility and what to expect. As a biochemist, having to recall freshman physics and physical chemistry was painful, but it was good for me to understand what was going on in the background (like a child eating their vegetables). Finally, it was fantastic getting to meet the other students and PI’s from this IGERT group. Getting to meet them and seeing their projects gave me a deeper understanding and appreciation on what the neutron realm has to offer science.