UT and ORNL announce Bienvenue as leader of Oak Ridge Institute


KNOXVILLE – Joan Bienvenue will lead the Oak Ridge Institute, the administration group overseeing the partnership between Oak Ridge National Laboratory and University of Tennessee.

Bienvenue will direct ORI after establishing the Applied Research Institute at the University of Virginia. As the leader of ORI, she will develop research strategies, build programs, and lead recruitment of faculty, staff and students.

“Joan is a scientific leader with a track record of leveraging university programs and sponsored research to address national priorities,” ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia said. “She is perfectly suited to lead partnerships between ORNL and UT that will create long-term national impact, accelerate critical research, and prepare our next generation of scientists and engineers.”

The ORI director reports to the ORNL director and is responsible for oversight of all ORI operations and activities, with accountability to UT’s provost for academic and research matters unique to the university.

“Our outstanding faculty, researchers, and graduate students are at the heart of the Oak Ridge Institute, and they will no doubt thrive under Dr. Bienvenue’s leadership,” UT Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman said. “Provost (John) Zomchick, Vice Chancellor (Deborah) Crawford, and I look forward to supporting her in this partnership as the world’s leading scientists at both our institutions work together to solve big problems and produce tomorrow’s scientists and engineers.”

She is a chemist by training, with a Ph.D. in chemistry from UVA, a master’s in forensic science from the University of New Haven in Connecticut, a bachelor’s in chemistry from Rivier University in New Hampshire, and an MBA from the University of Mary Washington in Virginia.

“The opportunity to lead this partnership between a national research university and the country’s leading science and energy laboratory holds transformative potential,” Bienvenue said. “The institute is a truly visionary initiative that positions UT, ORNL, and the state of Tennessee at the forefront of developing the research and talent required to lead the industries of the future. I can’t wait to get started.”

UT System President Randy Boyd said ORI at UT represents a tremendous opportunity for the state.

ORI at UT was established last year to address industry and workforce needs emerging from the introduction of automation and artificial intelligence. The institute will develop scientists and engineers to help in these fields across Tennessee. 

“Under Joan’s leadership, we will be able to continue building the relationship across the UT System with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and have greater opportunity to inspire and develop the talent and innovation America needs to compete in this global economy,” he said.

In addition to her role at UVA, Bienvenue served almost five years as program manager and chief scientist of Biometrics/Health and Life Sciences for Lockheed Martin, with responsibility for program management, business development, research commercialization, and technical leadership.

Bienvenue will also serve as a vice provost at UT. She begins her new position March 8.

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