Postdoctoral Research Associate - Nuclear Rocket Instrumentation and Controls

Date: May 23, 2024

Location: Oak Ridge, TN, US, 37830

Company: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Requisition Id 12937 



Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the largest US Department of Energy science and energy laboratory, conducting basic and applied research to deliver transformative solutions to compelling problems in energy and security.



The Nuclear and Extreme Environments Measurements (NEEM) Group within the Fuel Development Section (FDS), Nuclear Energy and Fuel Cycle Division (NEFCD), Fusion and Fission Energy and Science Directorate, at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), seeks applicants for a post doctorial position with an emphasis in instrumentation and controls hardware and software development for nuclear thermal rockets and other next-generation nuclear reactors. The NEEM group is passionate about research & development (R&D) of hardware and software solutions for advanced reactor applications such as micro-reactors, molten salt reactors, and space nuclear reactors and the development of autonomous controls for these next-generation reactors.


The position will involve system architecture, design, implementation, and testing including hands on work with our mock-reactor autonomous controls testbed. The primary function of this position is to develop autonomous controls to be implemented in hardware-in-the-loop testbed. The controls will be expected to respond to fault conditions. Also, the applicant should understand actuator hardware and be willing to provide guidance on “best-practices” for hard-in-the-loop testbed development.


Job Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Conduct R&D projects and help the expansion of R&D to take advantage of our multidisciplinary capabilities, multimodal strengths, and unique tools and capabilities.
  • Be knowledgeable in the fundamental concepts and principles of controls hardware/software design and system integration.
  • Develop new methodologies and algorithms for autonomous controls for space nuclear reactors.
  • Implement controls in hardware-in-the-loop testbed and implement fault conditions for testing of control response.


Required Qualifications:

  • Candidates must have a PhD degree in mechanical, electrical, aerospace, or nuclear engineering with a focus on instrumentation and/or controls.
  • Experience developing control algorithms and implementing control software into hardware platform.
  • Experience in having hardware and software communicate with each other in real-time.
  • Proficiency in Python, C++, Simulink, or other similar languages for data analysis, model testing, and controls development.


Preferred Qualifications:

  • Excellent communication skills including verbal, presentation, and writing skills are required to enable effective interaction with technical peers, program managers, and sponsors.
  • Demonstrate a good understanding of risk analysis and mitigation in control system.
  • Ability to draft high quality technical documents and give technical talks to the scientific community.


Special Requirements:

Applicants cannot have received their Ph.D. more than five years prior to the date of application and must complete all degree requirements before starting their appointment. The appointment length will be up to 24 months with the potential for extension. Initial appointments and extensions are subject to performance and availability of funding.


Please submit three letters of reference when applying to this position. You may upload these directly to your application or have them sent to with the position title and number referenced in the subject line.


Instructions to upload documents to your candidate profile:

  • Login to your account via
  • View Profile
  • Under the My Documents section, select Add a Document


Benefits at ORNL:  

ORNL offers competitive pay and benefits programs to attract and retain talented people. The laboratory offers many employee benefits, including medical and retirement plans and flexible work hours, to help you and your family live happy and healthy. Employee amenities such as on-site fitness, banking, and cafeteria facilities are also provided for convenience.


Other benefits include the following: Prescription Drug Plan, Dental Plan, Vision Plan, 401(k) Retirement Plan, Contributory Pension Plan, Life Insurance, Disability Benefits, Generous Vacation and Holidays, Parental Leave, Legal Insurance with Identity Theft Protection, Employee Assistance Plan, Flexible Spending Accounts, Health Savings Accounts, Wellness Programs, Educational Assistance, Relocation Assistance, and Employee Discounts.


If you have difficulty using the online application system or need an accommodation to apply due to a disability, please email: or call 1.866.963.9545.




This position will remain open for a minimum of 5 days after which it will close when a qualified candidate is identified and/or hired.

We accept Word (.doc, .docx), Adobe (unsecured .pdf), Rich Text Format (.rtf), and HTML (.htm, .html) up to 5MB in size. Resumes from third party vendors will not be accepted; these resumes will be deleted and the candidates submitted will not be considered for employment.

If you have trouble applying for a position, please email

ORNL is an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants, including individuals with disabilities and protected veterans, are encouraged to apply.  UT-Battelle is an E-Verify employer.

Nearest Major Market: Knoxville