Newswise — WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $2 million in funding to establish a first-of-its-kind traineeship program in isotope R&D, production, and processing. The effort will be led by Texas A&M University serving as the Isotope Traineeship Coordination (ITC) site in collaboration with a team of 17 institutions—14 institutions of higher education (eight of which are Minority Serving Institutions) and three DOE/National Nuclear Security Administration 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.

The workforce bolstered through this investment makes contributions daily to the prosperity and security of the Nation by supporting the activities of the DOE Isotope Program, a key federal program that produces critical isotopes 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 Dr. 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.”

The ITC collaboration aims to broaden and diversify the next generation workforce and promote innovative and transformative approaches to isotope production and processing through leveraging advancements in advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligencemachine learning, and robotics. The team will recruit a diverse population of approximately 20 undergraduate and 10 graduate students from the 14 degree-granting sites, develop a collaborative network and variety of 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 program will train participants in isotope science through coursework as well as research and isotope production experiences within the DOE Isotope Program.

Funding for the two-year award, which was selected on a competitive basis by peer review, totals $2 million in Fiscal Year 2021 dollars. The award can be found here.