The Department of Energy is dedicating $2 million to the establishment of a first-of-its-kind program to train undergraduate and graduate students in isotope research and development, production, and processing. Texas A&M University will serve as the Isotope Traineeship Coordination (ITC) site, collaborating with a team of 14 colleges and universities and three national laboratories: Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Los Alamos National Laboratory.
“This investment represents a concerted effort to boost exposure to the field of isotope science and accelerate the time that it typically takes for a junior scientist to enter the workforce,” according to the DOE’s December 6 announcement.
A funding opportunity announcement issued by the DOE Isotope Program in April 2021 states, “This pilot program is intended to provide support for participants from domestic institutions and is envisioned to support training and research and/or production experiences for students pursuing undergraduate and graduate-level degrees in fields related to isotope science to develop the next-generation workforce in isotope production and processing.”
The award was granted after a competitive peer review. Sherry Yennello, a professor of chemistry at Texas A&M, is the principal investigator for the project.
Details: The Texas A&M ITC team will recruit a diverse population of approximately 20 undergraduate and 10 graduate students to participate in isotope science coursework, as well as research and isotope production within the DOE Isotope Program. The team is to develop a collaborative network with in-person and virtual training mechanisms, establish peer support groups for students to increase retention and peer-to-peer mentoring, provide training for mentors, and assist in trainee career advancement.
The ITC collaboration aims to broaden and diversify the next-generation workforce and promote innovative and transformative approaches to isotope production and processing, leveraging advancements in advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics. Eight of the 14 degree-granting institutions involved in the program are minority-serving institutions, according to the DOE.
DOE Isotope Program: The DOE Isotope Program within the Office of Science is charged with producing critical isotopes that are in short supply. The isotopes produced have applications in medicine, national security, domestic and global industry, and discovery research.
“The DOE Isotope Program supports novel isotope production and processing activities at a suite of world-class facilities throughout the federal complex and at universities,” said Jehanne Gillo, director of the DOE Isotope Program. “To ensure a strong and innovative program in the future, it is critical to nurture a broad and diverse workforce.”