On October 17, 1946, the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies (ORINS) received a charter of incorporation from the state of Tennessee, and with fourteen southern universities as its charter members, the consortium of ORINS began to work toward the vision of Dr. William G. Pollard, the organization’s founder. Pollard wanted to allow access for faculty and students from the University of Tennessee and other southern universities to the science and technology that had developed in Oak Ridge during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project.
The Graduate Training Program was the first in a legacy of student research participation programs that still offer graduate students the opportunity to carry out thesis or dissertation research at the federal government’s laboratories. Similarly, ORINS initiated a Research Participation Program, which brought university faculty members to the federal facilities as well. For those researchers employed by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and living in Oak Ridge, ORINS teamed with the University of Tennessee in 1947 to offer the Oak Ridge Resident Graduate Program, which provided masters and doctoral courses in chemistry, math, and physics. ORINS provided the Oak Ridge facilities, equipment, and supplies while UT provided the faculty. Fifty years later, the organization manages more than one hundred programs similar to each of these.
In 1948 the Atomic Energy Commission asked the organization to establish a clinical research program to study the use of radioactive materials in treating and diagnosing diseases. ORINS set up a cancer research hospital and accepted its first patient in 1950. Until the hospital closed in the mid-1970s, numerous patients came to the ORINS hospital hoping to find a cure in the new treatments offered by the newly discovered powers of radiation.
In 1966 ORINS became Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) and has grown to eighty-eight member universities with representation from New Mexico to New Hampshire and is a contractor to the U.S. Department of Energy for the management of the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education. The organization has created collaborative research partnerships, expanding to encompass new areas such as research and training in workforce health, safety, and security; worldwide emergency preparedness, response and training; hazardous site characterization; and environmental cleanup verification. ORAU continues to provide that important link between academia and federal research facilities.