Developing a Research Proposal

Developing a Research Project and Required Proposal with a DOE Laboratory

  • Prior to applying, eligible faculty are strongly encouraged to reach out to scientific or engineering staff at the DOE National Laboratory best aligned with their research interests, and work to co-develop a research project plan, which can help provide a basis for the required co-written project proposal. Applicants should read carefully the research areas available at each DOE laboratory by reviewing the research information on laboratory websites and contact the appropriate research staff. Each participating DOE laboratory has a point of contact that can help you identify potential appropriate staff to initiate discussions on mutual research interests. A contact list for the DOE laboratories is available below.
  • Project proposals, required by all faculty applicants at the time of application, are co-written by the faculty member and a member of the laboratory research staff, who are the project co-Principal Investigators. Proposal guidance and requirements are found at the Submitting a Proposal to DOE page. The proposals will undergo a merit review to be used by host laboratories when evaluating applicants.Applicants applying under an eligible NSF program must also submit a supplemental proposal, and these applicants should refer to the NSF proposal guidance.
  • Research project proposals are uploaded at the time of application, using the online VFP application system.

Additional general information about DOE laboratories may be found using the following links:

To view the participating laboratories, visit Selecting a Host DOE Laboratory page.

DOE Laboratories

Ames Laboratory – Ames, IA

Argonne National Laboratory – Argonne, IL

Brookhaven National Laboratory – Upton, NY

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory – Batavia, IL

Idaho National Laboratory– Idaho Falls, ID

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory – Berkeley, CA

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory– Livermore, CA

Los Alamos National Laboratory – Los Alamos, NM

National Renewable Energy Laboratory – Golden, CO

Oak Ridge National Laboratory– Oak Ridge, TN

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory – Richland, WA

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory – Princeton, NJ

Sandia National Laboratories – Livermore, CA

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory – Menlo Park, CA

Ames Laboratory

Home of the 2011 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry, Danny Shechtman, the Ames Laboratory effectively focuses diverse fundamental and applied research strengths upon issues of national concern, cultivates tomorrow’s research talent, and develops and transfers technologies to improve industrial competitiveness and enhance U.S. economic security. At the forefront of current materials research, high-performance computing, and environmental science and management efforts, the Laboratory seeks solutions to energy-related problems through the exploration of physics, chemistry, engineering, applied mathematics and materials research. Uniquely integrated within a university environment, the Lab stimulates creative thought and encourages scientific discovery, providing solutions to complex problems and educating tomorrow's scientific talent.

Ames Laboratory is located in Ames, Iowa, on the campus of Iowa State University. Iowa State’s 2,000-acre, park-like campus is home to approximately 30,000 student Cyclones. Ames is approximately 30 minutes north of Des Moines, Iowa’s capitol city.

Argonne National Laboratory

Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory pursue major advances in science and technology that support energy security, environmental sustainability, and national security. To deliver groundbreaking innovations in these areas, Argonne applies a unique mix of state-of-the-art user facilities and leading scientific and engineering staff. From renewable energy and supercomputing to materials discovery and advanced batteries, Argonne’s work aims to advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future.

As one of the largest laboratories in the nation for science and engineering research, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne also designs, builds, and operates major scientific user facilities, including the Advanced Photon Source, the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility, the Advanced Powertrain Research Facility, and the Center for Nanoscale Materials.

Argonne researchers actively seek collaborative opportunities with colleagues in industry, academia, other national laboratories, and experts in other Argonne divisions to advance innovation and discovery. The laboratory also seeks to transfer its technologies to the marketplace through licensing, joint research, and many other collaborative relationships. For example, breakthrough materials developed at Argonne were recently licensed for use in the battery that powers the Chevy Volt.

Located 25 miles southwest of Chicago in DuPage County, Illinois, Argonne occupies 1,500 wooded acres surrounded by the Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve. Argonne’s proximity to Chicago offers employees and visitors easy access to renowned museums, entertainment and sporting events, distinct and culturally diverse neighborhoods, and the fabulous lakefront.

Brookhaven National Laboratory

The home of seven Nobel Prize-winning discoveries, Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) is the only Department of Energy multidisciplinary laboratory in the Northeast. BNL is home to some of the most prominent research facilities in the world including the National Synchrotron Light Source, the Center for Functional Nanomaterials and the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. The Lab’s mission for the coming decade focuses on three broad areas: (1) advancing fundamental research in nuclear and particle physics to gain a deeper understanding of matter, energy, space, and time; (2) applying photon sciences and nanomaterials research to energy problems of critical importance to the nation; and (3) performing cross-disciplinary research to understand the relationship between climate change, sustainable energy, and the Earth’s ecosystems.

Collaborations can range from working with physicists to probe the nature of matter to investigating the structure of proteins with biologists, to designing new materials at the nanoscale, to participating in some of the most challenging and unique computation and engineering projects in the world Located in the center of Long Island, New York, the Lab is a short train ride away from New York City, near ocean beaches, wineries and many other attractions. Every year BNL researchers look forward to hosting bright, motivated people to enable experiences with world class research. With 34% underrepresented participants and a 50/50 gender split, the Lab provides a welcoming and culturally diverse experience. To learn more about Brookhaven National Laboratory visit – you’ll be glad you did.

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

Discovering what the universe is made of and how it works is the challenge of particle physics. What is the nature of the universe? What are matter and energy, space and time? At Fermilab, thousands of scientists from across the country and around the world collaborate on experiments at the frontiers of discovery: the Energy Frontier, the Intensity Frontier and the Cosmic Frontier. Answers to the most challenging questions about the fundamental physics of the universe will come as Fermilab’s scientific program pushes forward with world-leading research at all three interrelated frontiers. Particle accelerators at the Energy Frontier produce high-energy collisions that signal new phenomena, from the origin of mass to the nature of dark matter and extra dimensions of space. Fermilab is the U.S. host laboratory for the CMS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, in Geneva, Switzerland. Scientists use intense beams from particle accelerators for Intensity Frontier experiments that explore neutrino interactions and ultra-rare processes in nature. At the Cosmic Frontier, astrophysicists use the cosmos as a laboratory to investigate the fundamental laws of physics from a perspective that complements experiments at particle accelerators. Experiments at Fermilab can involve hundreds of scientists from all over the world who work for years designing and constructing large detectors and then taking and analyzing data. Read more about our frontiers of discovery at

The frontier is the quintessential symbol of Fermilab. The Laboratory’s founding director, Robert Wilson, born in Frontier, Wyoming, incorporated the frontier imagery of his western heritage in a site designed for discovery at the frontiers of science. Wilson’s introduction of American bison, the restoration of hundreds of acres of native tall-grass prairie, and a frontier spirit of adventure and resourcefulness helped to establish Fermilab’s unique character. Located in Batavia, Illinois, Fermilab is 30 miles west of Chicago's Loop. While at Fermilab you can enjoy a range of outdoor activities or take advantage of the cultural resources of a large metropolitan area.

Idaho National Laboratory

Idaho National Laboratory (INL) is one of the U.S. Department of Energy's 10 multi-program national laboratories. The laboratory performs work in each of the strategic goal areas of DOE – energy, national security, science and environment. More specifically, INL is the nation's leading center of nuclear energy research and development. Day-to-day management and operation of the laboratory is the responsibility of Battelle Energy Alliance.

Located in southeastern Idaho, the INL covers 889 square miles of the Snake River Plain between Idaho Falls and Arco, Idaho. Offices and laboratories are also in the city of Idaho Falls, Idaho (population 50,000), located about two hours from Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park and other areas offering prime recreational opportunities. More information can be found at INL.

INL may require background checks for accepted participants prior to final approval for placement at the lab.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Located in the hills of Berkeley, California overlooking the San Francisco Bay, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) is a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory that conducts a wide variety of unclassified scientific research for DOE’s Office of Science. LBNL is an incubator for ideas, innovations and products that help society and explain how the universe works, including:

  • renewable energy sources such as biofuels and artificial photosynthesis
  • energy efficiency at home, at work, and around the world
  • the ability to observe, probe, and assemble materials atom by atom
  • climate change research, environmental science, and the growing connections between them
  • the chemistry and physics of matter and force in the universe — from the infinite to the infinitesimal
  • computational science and advanced networking to enable discovery and remote collaborations
  • biological sciences and genomics for human health and energy research.

LBNL was founded in 1931 by Ernest Orlando Lawrence, a UC Berkeley physicist who won the 1939 Nobel Prize in physics for his invention of the cyclotron, a circular particle accelerator that opened the door to high-energy physics. It was Lawrence’s belief that scientific research is best done through teams of individuals with different fields of expertise, working together. His teamwork concept is a LBNL legacy that continues today.

Twelve scientists and an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) associated with LBNL have won the Nobel Prize — including current Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu — and dozens of Nobel Laureates have either trained at the Lab or had significant collaborations with staff there. Thirteen Lab scientists have won the National Medal of Science, our nation’s highest award for lifetime achievement in scientific research.

Researchers at LBNL have…discovered 16 elements…identified good and bad cholesterol…turned windows into energy savers…found the source of large-scale structure in the universe and revealed the existence of dark energy…explained photosynthesis…exposed the risk of radon… redefined the causes of breast cancer…made appliances pull their weight in energy efficiency…revealed the secrets of the human genome…and more!

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) is a premier applied science laboratory that is part of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) within the Department of Energy (DOE). LLNL was managed from its inception in 1952 through September 2007 by the University of California for the U.S. government. LLNL is currently managed by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC. Approximately 7,000 people are employed at LLNL, including more than 1,200 PhD scientists and engineers. Much of the research conducted at LLNL occurs in multi-disciplinary teams of scientists and engineers.

As a national security laboratory, LLNL’s principal mission is to ensure that the nation's nuclear weapons remain safe, secure, and reliable through application of advances in science and engineering. With its special capabilities, the Laboratory also addresses other pressing national security needs. For example, LLNL conducts major programs in climate and energy research, bioscience and biotechnology, and basic science and advanced technologies. Breakthrough advances are made possible by an extraordinary technical staff and investments in state-of-the-art research facilities that provide LLNL wide ranging capabilities. In particular, the Laboratory is an international leader in the fields of laser science, high performance computing, and nuclear and biological forensics.

The LLNL site occupies approximately one square mile in Livermore, California a community approximately 45 miles east of San Francisco. It has links to the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system, which provides easy access to the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Major airports located nearby are in Oakland, San Jose, and San Francisco.

Click here to learn more about the educational programs at LLNL.

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Located in northern New Mexico, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security. LANL enhances national security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health, and global security concerns. Partnering with respected universities, LANL institutes and centers provide exceptional opportunities to build collaborative research efforts.

Long known for its multicultural and artistic community, northern New Mexico also offers a variety of exciting outdoor recreational opportunities. At 7,000 feet Los Alamos is situated between the deserts and the high country of the southern Rocky Mountains. When visiting researchers and students come to LANL they are provided with a unique opportunity not only to bolster their scientific and technical skills but also to learn more about richness and diversity of the cultural and physical world around us.

To learn more about the science programs at LANL click here.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

As the nation's primary laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) helps lead the nation toward a clean energy future. The Laboratory focuses on clean energy technologies that benefit both the environment and the economy.

NREL conducts research in about 50 areas of scientific investigation, including photovoltaics, wind energy, biomass-derived fuels and chemicals, building efficiency, advanced vehicles, industrial processes, solar thermal systems, hydrogen, fuel cells, geothermal, distributed energy resources, measurement and testing of renewable energy systems, hybrid systems, basic energy research, scientific computingand energy analysis.

The Laboratory has two campuses: the main 300-acre campus in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Golden, Colorado, and the National Wind Technology Center located between Golden and Boulder. Exciting developments on the main campus include construction of a new LEED platinum office complex, expansion of NREL’s biofuels production facility and construction of an Energy Systems Integration Facilitywhere world-class electric grid integration research will soon take place. At the wind center, NREL is testing several new megawatt class turbines and building new blade and dynamometer test facilities.

Golden is a western suburb of Denver which has a unique feel of a small town in a highly tech metro area. Boulder offers a college environment with many opportunities at the University of Colorado.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

As DOE’s largest science and energy laboratory, ORNL has a research portfolio that supports U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) missions in scientific discovery and innovation, clean energy, and nuclear security. Major research initiatives focus ORNL’s capabilities on:

ORNL’s leadership role in shaping the nation’s energy future includes hosting the U.S. project office for the ITER international fusion experiment, managing DOE’s Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, and leading the DOE Office of Science–sponsored BioEnergy Science Centerand the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy–sponsored Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors.

Critical research infrastructure at ORNL includes the world’s foremost resources for neutron sciences—the Spallation Neutron Sourceand the High Flux Isotope Reactor—and the world’s most powerful scientific computing complex. An investment of more than $500 million of federal, state, and private funds over the past decade has created a modern research environment at ORNL, with new facilities including the Advanced Materials Characterization Laboratory, the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, the Chemical and Materials Sciences Building, and three state-funded joint institutes.

Since, 1947, ORNL has had a long and successful history of mentoring students and faculty. Guest researchers are welcomed into a stimulating atmosphere of hands-on research, and are encouraged to think independently and creatively, expand their horizons, connect with others, and learn from their mistakes.

ORNL is located in East Tennessee about 7 miles from the center of Oak Ridge (population 27,000) and about 25 miles from Knoxville (metro area population of 650,000). The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is nearby along with various state parks and Tennessee Valley Authority lakes affording numerous recreational opportunities.

Click here to find out more about DOE's programs for students at ORNL.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory(PNNL) is a Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science national laboratory where interdisciplinary teams advance science and technology and deliver solutions to America's most intractable problems in energy, the environment, and national security. PNNL employs 4,900 staff and has an annual budget of nearly $1.1 billion.

In support of DOE missions, PNNL is distinguishing itself as a national laboratory providing world-leading science and technology in the areas of: 1) design and scalable synthesis of materials and chemicals, 2) coupling earth and energy systems for sustainability, 3) efficient and secure electricity management from generation to end use, and 4) signature discovery and exploitation for threat detection and reduction.

Our core capabilities are chemical and molecular sciences; chemical engineering; biological systems science; climate change science; environmental subsurface science; applied materials science and engineering; applied nuclear science and technology; advanced computer science, visualization, and data; systems engineering and integration; and large-scale user facilities/advanced instrumentation. The Marine Sciences Laboratory, at PNNL’s Sequim Marine Research Operations on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, is DOE’s only marine research laboratory. There, scientists develop innovations to address ocean-driven energy, marine resource impacts, and coastal security threats.

Fittingly part of the Lewis and Clark expedition, the confluence of the Columbia, Snake, and Yakima rivers in southeastern Washington now is home to the communities of Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco (combined population ~240,000). The Tri-Cities offers a multitude of recreational, cultural, and historical activities with a mild, airy climate and up to 300 days of sunshine a year. The major metropolitan areas of Seattle and Portland are less than a four-hour drive away. Learn moreabout the area’s high rankings, including “11th Geekiest City in the U.S.” Every day, the staff at PNNL demonstrate a passion for delivering excellence in science and technology, management and operations, and advocacy for the communities where we live and work. We transform the world through courageous discovery and innovation.

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

The Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) is a Collaborative National Center for plasma and fusion science. Its primary mission is to develop the scientific understanding and key innovations that will lead to an attractive fusion energy source. Associated missions include conducting world-class research along the broad frontier of plasma science and providing the highest quality of scientific education. The laboratory, which is managed by Princeton University, is located on the University’s James Forrestal Campus.

The staff at PPPL is devoted both to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas--ultrahot, charged gases--and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. In a series of experiments at the lab, PPPL researchers are expanding understanding of how plasmas behave and how they can be used to create fusion energy. The largest of these experiments, the National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX), began in 1999. As in many other fusion experiments, the plasmas in NSTX are confined using magnetic fields and walls designed to withstand the heat from plasmas with temperatures that exceed 100 million degrees Celsius (to date, NSTX plasmas have attained temperatures of 60 million degrees Celsius). But in contrast to most fusion experiments, which confine plasmas in a donut-like shape, the plasmas in NSTX are spherical in shape with a hole through the center.

Laboratory scientists are collaborating with researchers on fusion science and technology at other facilities, both domestic and foreign. Staff are applying knowledge gained in fusion research to a number of theoretical and experimental areas including materials science, solar physics, chemistry, and manufacturing. You can read more about PPPL’s research efforts here:

Sandia National Laboratory

For more than 50 years, the California campus of Sandia National Laboratories has delivered essential science and technology to resolve the nation's most challenging security issues. Many of these challenges—like energy resources, transportation, immigration, ports, and more—surfaced early in the state of California, providing Sandia/California with a special opportunity to participate in the first wave of solutions to important national problems.

Placement opportunities for interns and faculty are at the Combustion Research Facility, a unique, multi-investigator research laboratory.

Sandia’s Combustion Research Facility (CRF) in Livermore, California, is home to over 100 scientists, engineers, and technologists who conduct basic and applied research to improve our nation’s ability to use and control combustion processes efficiently and cleanly. Under the principal sponsorship of the Department of Energy’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences, the CRF seeks to reveal the key chemical and physical processes that underlie the complex mechanisms of combustion and provide the science base necessary to build a new generation of advanced, high-efficiency, clean internal combustion engines (ICEs) and to optimize these engines for future fuels. CRF researchers and collaborators have greatly expanded the fundamental knowledge of combustion processes and contributed to significant design innovations for diesel engines, pulse combustors for furnaces, pollution reduction methods, and diagnostic techniques for investigating these processes. Our ability to understand and exploit chemical reactions at the molecular level is key to developing advanced fossil-derived fuels, biofuels, and hydrogen.

Researchers in the program employ state-of-the-art laser-based techniques to interrogate chemical reactivity, molecular spectroscopy, turbulent flame dynamics, reacting in-cylinder flows in ICEs, and the effects of combustion emissions on atmospheric composition and climate.  We also have a major focus on combustion simulation and modeling, which includes large-scale computations of turbulent combustion processes, mathematical and computational tools for uncertainty quantification, stochastic modeling, ab initio calculations of molecular structure and energetics, and modeling of the complete kinetics of combustion processes in both laminar and turbulent environments.

Sandia/California is uniquely situated in the Livermore Valley approximately 45 miles east of San Francisco. The CRF’s challenging and stimulating work environment addresses today’s most critical energy and environmental issues, and offers opportunities for personal, professional, and technical growth.

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Science at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is revealing the universe at its smallest, largest, fastest and most extreme. Researchers at the laboratory carry out studies in environmental, medical, energy, and materials science, develop advanced technology for accelerating and detecting particles and explore the mysteries of the cosmos.

SLAC’s signature two-mile linear accelerator—the longest in the world—now powers the Linac Coherent Light Source, a new kind of X-ray laser, which is transforming the way we view and understand the atomic and molecular world.

Each year, SLAC is enriched by over 3,000 visiting scientists from universities, laboratories and companies within the United States and abroad. Six scientists have been awarded the Nobel Prize for work carried out at SLAC and the future of the laboratory promises to be just as extraordinary. Learn more about the research done at SLAC by visiting our Research Programs webpage: