Undergraduate Research Summer Internships

Feature photo by Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education

The ORNL Virtual Undergraduate Student Research Summer Internships (vURSI) program provides research opportunities, chances to connect with ORNL researchers, and associated activities for undergraduate students. The summer internships are designed to complement academic programs by utilizing the unique resources and mentorship from world-class scientists of ORNL to enhance science, mathematics, engineering, and technology education; encourage careers in science and technology; and improve scientific literacy.

Eligibility Requirements
  • Degree: Currently pursuing an Associate’s Degree or Bachelor’s Degree.
  • Overall GPA: 3.00
  • Discipline(s):
    • Communications and Graphics Design 
    • Computer, Information, and Data 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 
  • Age: 18 years or older

Program Goals

The program’s goals are to:

  • Engage students through meaningful mentorship and enrichment activities
  • Maximize the abilities of students through cooperative research with ORNL researchers
  • Provide a learning environment for students to develop the skills they need to become the next generation of researchers
  • Advance the participant’s scientific skills and knowledge in areas of critical national need
  • 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 vURSI 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 vURSI program is managed by ORNL and 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.

Program Topics

Researchers from any of ORNL mission areas may review vURSI applications and issue an appointment offer. ORNL boasts state-of-the-art capabilities across a wide range of scientific and engineering disciplines, including  materials science and engineeringcomputer and computational scienceneutron scatteringneutron science and technologybiological and environmental research, national security sciencesnuclear physics and engineeringfusion and fission science and technology, and energy efficiency and renewable energy (building technologiesadvanced manufacturingtransportation technologies).

Oak Ridge is also the place to be for scientists and engineers who want to be leaders in their disciplines while addressing challenging problems in a multidisciplinary environment. Our researchers work in laboratories with world-class, often unique, facilities including the Spallation Neutron SourceHigh Flux Isotope ReactorCenter for Nanophase Materials SciencesOak Ridge Leadership Computing FacilityNational Transportation Research CenterManufacturing Demonstration FacilityBuildings Technologies Research and Innovation CenterCenter for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors, and many more. Many research groups are cross-disciplinary and projects may be supported by multiple Divisions and Directorates.

Before you get started on your applications, you should:

Review the research areas at ORNL to determine what best fits your career goals & identify your areas of interest & key terminology that can be used as you answer application questions or update your resume. You can see the eight key areas at www.ornl.gov.

  • Explore breakthrough areas, news, current research highlights, related links, and more. 
  • Use the search box to identify key researchers at ORNL in specific areas
  • Explore the directorates and divisions.

Program Details

  • Ten week research experience
  • Full-time participation (40 hours/week)
  • Appointments typically start in early June and end on in August. Dates for individual appointments may be flexible to account for academic calendars and trimester schedules.

Eligibility Requirements

To be considered for this opportunity, applicants must:

  • Be currently enrolled in an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree-seeking program at a regionally accredited US college or university
    • Applicant must be currently taking undergraduate-level classes or have completed the first term in an undergraduate program
  • Have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • Be 18 years of age


All awards and active participation in the program are contingent upon security access approval to ORNL, agreement with the Terms of Appointment, and completion of all contingencies in the offer letter. All contingencies of an appointment offer must be met before the applicant can begin an appointment.

  • Students who are not U.S. citizens are subject to DOE clearance approval for laboratory access.
  • vURSI 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.


The vURSI program does not have citizenship requirements, although specific research projects may have additional restrictions. If a selected applicant is not a U.S. citizen, they must obtain and show proof of a valid visa status allowing us to pay them a stipend. Once an offer has been made, the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education Immigration Office may guide the process of obtaining appropriate immigration documents. Participants who are foreign nationals must also receive approval and clearance from the U.S. Department of Energy; this process is initiated by ORNL after an application has been selected.

During the Appointment

Appointments require a commitment to the research program at ORNL. The participant’s research must be conducted in a manner and according to a time schedule that meets the overall research needs of ORNL.


All vURSI participants are required to submit a report and present a poster at the end of the program.


Participants receive a biweekly stipend based on their educational level. Stipend payments are taxable as an educational benefit. There will be a delay after starting before you receive your fist stipend. You should be prepared to cover all personal expenses for the first 30 days of your appointment.

  • Dislocation allowance: $1,500 one-time payment for a 10 week appointment, deposited near the beginning of the appointment. Housing allowances are paid to offset the costs associated with housing and other living expenses.
  • Current undergraduate student stipend: $1,200 stipend per biweekly period