Brendan Kochunas Portrait

NERS Professor Brendan Kochunas honored with faculty development professorship

The Charles and Elizabeth Schrock Faculty Development Professorship is awarded in recognition of outstanding contributions to teaching and research.

U-M Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences (NERS) Assistant Professor Brendan Kochunas has been awarded the Charles and Elizabeth Schrock Faculty Development Professorship. The position was created through an endowment from the Schrock’s to recruit or retain faculty in recognition or expectation of outstanding contributions to teaching and research. 

Chair Todd Allen noted, “Brendan is a leader in NERS through his work in multi-physics methods and modeling, economics of nuclear systems, and uses of extended reality in nuclear research and engagement. His work gives me confidence in the future of NERS.” 

Kochunas’ research focus at NERS is on the next generation of numerical methods and parallel algorithms for high-fidelity computational reactor physics. His areas of expertise include neutron transport, nuclide transmutation, multi-physics, parallel programming, and HPC architectures. He joined the NERS faculty in 2019 where he leads the Nuclear Reactor Analysis and Methods (NuRAM) group and the Nuclear Plant Simulation Laboratory (NPSL). A core component of the NPSL is the Virtual Ford Nuclear Reactor (VFNR), an XR Initiative led by Prof. Kochunas and funded by U-M Center for Academic Innovation. 

Earlier this year, Kochunas was awarded a US Department of Energy Distinguished Early Career Award to support his research into advancing our knowledge and understanding of the digital twins’ concept for nuclear engineering applications. The project aims to contribute foundational knowledge for creating digital twin models for nuclear energy systems and their components from high-fidelity simulations. Kochunas will also create a curriculum for teaching these methods. 

During his time as a PhD student, Prof. Kochunas initiated and led the development of the MPACT code that became the main deterministic neutronics tool within the CASL (Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors) project and subsequently within VERA (Virtual Environment for Reactor Applications). MPACT was not only born out of his PhD research but has also become a central research tool in the work of more than 16 other PhD students in the NERS department.

Kochunas also supports the NERS-based Project SAFARI – Secure Automation for Advanced Reactor Innovation, which will develop AI-enhanced digital twins of nuclear reactors with a grant from the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy.

On winning the award, Kochunas commented, “As always, I feel this kind of recognition is humbling. It’s not something I tend to think about day-to-day. Day-to-day I’m just focused on how to get students to do good work and solve hard problems. To receive this award is great because it lets me keep doing that. I’m very grateful to Charles and Elizabeth Schrock for their gift.  .”

The Board of Regents approved Kochunas’s appointment for the period of December 1, 2022, through November 30, 2025.

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