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April 11, 2024 | Tom Ballard

Interim leader of UT-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute named to the post permanently

David Sholl will also serve as a Vice Provost the UT, Knoxville.

David Sholl has been named the Executive Director of the University of Tennessee (UT)-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute (UT-ORII) and Vice Provost at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, after serving as the institute’s interim leader since June 2023.   His selection comes after an extensive national search and selection process that involved leadership across the UT System and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

David Sholl

“David’s extensive background—working in academia and the national lab system as well as delivering tremendous scientific results throughout his career—makes him an excellent choice to lead UT-ORII,” ORNL Director Stephen Streiffer said. “I look forward to working with David as we expand UT-ORII’s impact.”

Under Sholl’s leadership over the past nine months, UT-ORII has added two new $20 million UT-ORNL convergent research initiatives and expedited plans to recruit more than 100 new UT and ORNL joint research faculty and 500 research graduate students by 2030,  two years ahead of schedule.

“David is a proven leader and has the vision we need for UT-ORII,” said UT System President Randy Boyd.  “He has done a remarkable job as interim director, and I look forward to seeing all UT-ORII will accomplish under his leadership.”

Sholl said serving as UT-ORII’s Interim Director gave him the chance to see firsthand the tremendous potential UT and ORNL have to solve some of our nation’s toughest scientific challenges, by joining forces.

“UT and ORNL have partnered in various ways for 80 years, but there has never been an organization like the UT-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute that’s solely focused on leveraging the strengths of the two institutions to accelerate collaborative discovery, innovation, and graduate education; while at the same time, making UT, ORNL, Tennessee and the world better as a result of our combined successes,” Sholl said. “UT-ORII has achieved a lot in the last year and there are many exciting things to look forward to in the future.”

Sholl joined ORNL three years ago to lead the laboratory’s Transformational Decarbonization Initiative to bring together the lab’s science capabilities and expertise to advance development and deployment of decarbonization solutions for the nation’s energy system.  Last year, Sholl was also chosen to lead DOE’s new Energy Earthshot Research Center at ORNL, aimed at reducing industrial emissions through more sustainable chemical processes.  Earlier this year, Sholl was recognized with one of the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer with his election to the National Academy of Engineering.

Prior to joining ORNL, he served 15 years as a professor in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, including eight years as that program’s school chair, and 10 years on the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University.

Sholl is a fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is the Editor-in-Chief of AIChE Journal and has published more than 400 papers and three books. His book, “Success and Creativity in Scientific Research,” offers career advice to young scientists based on a popular lecture series at Georgia Tech.

UT-ORII was launched by UT and ORNL in response to America’s need for a stronger pool of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) talent; and to drive innovation-based economic growth across Tennessee.


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