While on a volunteer trip to northern Uganda, something changed in Deep Patel. He witnessed first-hand the debilitating effects that energy poverty has on people and society, and decided that his purpose would be to end the energy crisis. Deep’s path to fulfill his purpose has brought him to the U-M Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences (NERS), where he is currently a Ph.D. candidate, and most recently to the Tauber Institute for Global Operations, to which he was just admitted earlier this month.
Deep was born in a small village called Pansar in Gujarat State, India. As a child, he moved around Gujarat often for his father’s work, eventually moving to Kampala, Uganda. Deep describes education opportunities in nuclear engineering in Kampala as “nonexistent.”
“I grew to realize that a quality education would be essential to my dreams of one day having a successful scientific career … I decided to pursue higher education in the United States,” Deep said.
Deep completed his undergraduate studies in nuclear engineering at the University of New Mexico (UNM) before coming to NERS to work on his doctorate. While at UNM, he was given a Best Paper and Presentation award at the American Nuclear Society Student Conference in 2018. Only three of such awards were given out that year.
“I became fond of giving presentations at conferences and was continually inspired by the best paper and presentation awards I kept getting,” Deep said. “I started to get a kick out of it.”
It was during his time at UNM that Deep’s interests were turning towards the materials area of nuclear engineering, which inspired him to take an internship in the Advanced Nuclear Materials Division of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).
“I had the incredible opportunity of working under Dr. Yutai Katoh,” Deep said. “My research was focused on Silicon Carbide (SiC) composite cladding, which is a candidate for accident tolerant fuel cladding. It’s designed to increase safe operation margins of a nuclear reactor and avoid accidents like Fukushima.”
During his first year at ORNL, Deep split his time between two projects. The first focused on micro-pillar compression testing of SiC/SiC composite and allowed him to build upon his experience with Focused Ion Beam (FIB) and nano-indentation.
The second project involved high-temperature creep testing of SiC fibers. He was motivated by the temperature extremes the cladding would have to bear under accident scenarios. This project resulted in a first author paper in Fusion Science and Technology Journal. He also presented it at the student competition of Technology of Fusion Energy (ToFE) 2018 in Orlando, FL. Deep said, “I was the only undergraduate finalist and won the second prize. The $250 was a cherry on top of the cake.”
During his second year at ORNL, Deep focused on a project involving Chromium coatings on SiC cladding, which are designed to serve as an environmental barrier to prevent hydrothermal corrosion and to seal fission gasses inside the fuel rods of light water nuclear reactors. Deep said, “I performed nano scale mechanical testing at the interface of SiC and Chromium and presented my work at the International Conference and Expo on Advanced Ceramics and Composites (ICACC) in 2020, and submitted it for publication in the Journal of Surface and Coatings Technology.”
At NERS, Deep first focused on reactor safety, where he modeled the structural integrity of a Printed Circuit Heat Exchanger (for use in advanced nuclear reactors) under high pressure and temperature conditions. His work was accepted for publication in the proceedings of Pressure Vessels and Piping (American Society of Mechanical Engineers), 2020.
He is currently making tools for policy and investment decision makers that allow them to measure the economic potential of small and micro nuclear reactors in emerging markets. This involves improving and applying project finance and optimization-based energy systems models to evaluate investment decisions in deployment of nuclear and other low-carbon energy technologies. The work is a collaboration with the Fastest Path to Zero Initiative and the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Emerging Energy Market Analyses (EMA) Initiative.
Earlier this month, Deep was appointed to the ANS National Finance Committee for a three-year term. He has also served as the Appropriations Chair for ANS National Student Section Committee for the past two years.
“Being a member of a community that is constantly progressing and achieving new heights is something that has always been important to me,” said Deep. “As the President of UNM chapter of ANS and as the Appropriations Chair for the society’s National Student Section Committee, I was privileged to lead teams at the chapter and national levels focused on securing financing that would enable top students from across the nation to attend America’s biggest nuclear innovation conference, while also educating 300 Albuquerque girl scouts about nuclear technology.”
Next up for Deep is an exciting opportunity at the Tauber Institute for Global Operations. The Institute describes itself as “a joint venture between the Ross School of Business and the College of Engineering, working together with a wide range of industry partners to facilitate cross-disciplinary education in global operations management.”
Deep plans to participate in the LeadershipAdvantage series at Tauber, which will help him develop leadership attributes and refine his communication skills to lead and collaborate across large multinational teams and eventually impact energy poverty.
Deep is also interested in Tauber’s strong partnerships with DTE and GE, as well as the unique opportunity to work with students and learn from professors with more business-focused backgrounds. He said, “Tauber will provide me with essential and unique operations management and leadership skills to achieve my career objective of leading the power generation industry towards a more sustainable future.”
“I appreciate Dr. Allen’s assistance with everything from funding my ANS Winter and ICACC 2020 conference attendance (where I presented my latest ORNL research), to introducing me to research in nuclear economics,” Deep said. “Despite being super busy, Dr. Allen has freed up a lot of his time to advise me. Also, I would like to especially thank Dr. Sun for his understanding and initiating my grad life at NERS. Lastly, I would like to thank my current advisors Dr. Kochunas and Dr. Michael Craig (SEAS) for moulding me into an independent researcher.”
Deep’s passion for ending energy poverty wasn’t only ignited by his trip to Uganda, but also by his faith. “I was motivated to selflessly serve humanity by my spiritual guru Pramukh Swami Maharaj of BAPS,” he said. “It was through his idea that ‘In the joy of others lies our own, in the progress of others rests our own.’”