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ORNL scientist featured in new Smithsonian exhibit honoring women in STEM

ORNL said Amy Elliott leads the lab's robotics and intelligent systems group and specializes in the inkjet-based 3D printing of metals and ceramics.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — An Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientist is gaining national recognition thanks to a new Women's History Month exhibit at the Smithsonian Castle in Washington, D.C.

Amy Elliott, a manufacturing scientist at ORNL, is one of 120 women featured in the new exhibit, IfThenSheCan, at the Smithsonian, which recognizes women who have excelled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The exhibit is made up of 120 life-sized 3D-printed statues and will be on display through March 27. It is also the largest collection of women statues ever assembled, according to ORNL.

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As someone who specializes in 3D printing research, Elliott was thrilled to see her likeness in the very thing she studies.

"It was so cool to see a 3D-printed statue of myself," she said. "I mean, my head couldn't get any bigger. This is amazing. Don't worry, I have the file we will be printing another soon."

It was a process several years in the making, from when Elliott submitted her application to seeing the statue in person.

"When I was 3D scanned, I was pregnant. And so it was so cool to go see the statue with my baby and get to pose next to it for a picture," she said. "It was just a sweet experience. "

Elliott hopes she and her statue inspire her two sons and any kids looking toward a career like hers.

"A career in STEM is just a great decision all the way around," she said. "Anything that you can take interest in, toys, nature, there's a STEM field behind it that you can study."

The lab said she is a Fayetteville, Tenn. native and earned her doctorate from Virginia Tech, where she was project lead for the world’s first 3D-printing vending machine, the DreamVendor. She joined ORNL in 2013 as a researcher working in the Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility.

ORNL said Elliott now leads the robotics and intelligent systems group and specializes in the inkjet-based 3D printing of metals and ceramics. This technology was designed to enhance and transform advanced manufacturing in the automotive, aerospace and power generating sectors. 

Credit: Amy Elliot

Her inventions have been licensed by industry and have won prestigious awards including two R&D 100 Awards, according to the lab. She also holds several patents and licenses including a method for 3D metal printing and additive manufacturing of aluminum boron carbide metal composites.

“As a 3D printing researcher, it was so cool to get 3D scanned for the statue and printed while expecting my first child,” Elliott said. “I love being a STEM mom and feel so honored to be part of history and the IFThenSheCan exhibit.”

Along with the IfThenSheCan honor, Elliott was named one of the top 20 women in robotics from the Society of Manufacturing Engineers; was awarded the 2021 Tennessee Valley YWCA Tribute to Women Award in the science, technology and environment category; and was named to the 40 Under 40 Knox.biz class, which recognizes industry innovators, according to ORNL.

ORNL said she has also appeared on Discovery Channel’s reality TV show "The Big Brain Theory," where she placed second out of 10 contestants. She was recruited by the Science Channel to co-host "Outrageous Acts of Science" and has traveled the world to co-host the RoboNation TV web series. Most recently, her work was featured on a segment of CBS’ Mission Unstoppable.

Elliott met with Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, DOE Under Secretary for Science and Innovation Geri Richmond and National Nuclear Security Administrator Jill Hruby, who toured the statues during the exhibit’s opening weekend.

"I don't know if we'll get to keep the statue," said Elliott. "I'm hoping that we will eventually get to go grab them and take them home with me and I'm totally planning on putting it on my front lawn."

Elliott said she's proud to represent Oak Ridge National Lab, Tennessee and women in STEM in this way.a

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