Program embeds graduate students at Argonne and allows Argonne scientists to be primary or sole research advisers for UChicago PhD students

Starting this fall, University of Chicago graduate students and Argonne National Laboratory scientists will have a new path to collaborate on innovative research.

The Graduate Research Cooperative (GRC), a new unit within UChicago’s Office of Research and National Laboratories (RNL), will foster and coordinate opportunities for joint graduate student research between UChicago and Argonne.

Under the program, science and engineering graduate students can follow one of two paths. The first will allow students to conduct one or two years of research in residence at Argonne, similar to the current visiting student appointment program.

A new second path allows students to conduct the entirety of their thesis research in residence at Argonne. For the first time, Argonne scientists, who need not be jointly appointed as faculty at a university, can become eligible to serve as primary research supervisors for PhD students.

Students will still receive doctoral degrees from the university through existing academic departments and will still have a UChicago faculty academic adviser.

The program kicked off at a town hall at Argonne on Oct. 22.

“At the University, our main outputs are knowledge and highly educated individuals,” said Juan de Pablo, vice president for national laboratories and Liew Family Professor in Molecular Engineering, as well as a senior scientist at Argonne. “The Graduate Research Cooperative will allow Argonne scientists and staff to educate students, to be a part of this job that we pride ourselves on at the university. We want to train the most highly qualified people we can in science and engineering, and we realize that we could do that even better by partnering with Argonne.”

The program is launching as a pilot this fall with students from the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, though the hope is to expand it to other academic departments and to Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in the coming years.

Argonne scientists who wish to act as advisers will need to apply to become mentors and will participate in the student recruiting process. Accepted graduate students will then decide if they want to become part of an Argonne research group and conduct research in a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) mission area.

“We will have a chance to attract a wider range of strong students because of the exceptional research projects that happen at Argonne,” said Paul Nealey, the GRC director and Dougan Professor in Molecular Engineering at UChicago, who will lead the program with initial administrative oversight provided by Larry Hill, senior associate vice president for strategic initiatives in RNL.

“Additional opportunities for postdocs to conduct research with our scientists will bring new insight, energy and opportunities to Argonne,” said Paul Kearns, director of Argonne. “This closer collaboration between the laboratory and the university will expand the pipeline of STEM students and strengthen our world-class community of talent.”

The GRC was born out the Joint Task Force Initiative (JTFI), which brings UChicago resources to bear in helping Argonne and Fermilab achieve mission success.

Photo: Juan de Pablo speaks at the town hall. Photo courtesy of Argonne.