Dear NERS Community,
Well, 2019–2020 was an interesting year. Great accomplishments from a great department (still ranked #1) combined with a rapid transition in March where the students were all sent home and we learned how to deliver content and do our work from home. And as you’d expect, the faculty, staff, and students in NERS were fantastic throughout.
We had some transitions. Bill Martin retired. We hired a new faculty member with expertise in plasma theory, Associate Professor Scott Baalrud. He will start in 2021. Alec Thomas was promoted to Professor. Brian Kiedrowski obtained tenure and was promoted to Associate Professor. Nick Jordan and Yuefeng Zhu were promoted to Associate Research Scientist.
We hired a new communications specialist Sara Norman who has significantly improved our ability to tell the NERS story. We now have an active presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our web page is updated. As an example, you can now “visit” our facilities through our video series.
COVID was a complete jerk but we refused to let it ruin the party. People learned to work and learn remotely (and better than we imagined it would work). We are slowly getting back to work on campus and will welcome students back in the fall but in a complicated combination of in-person and virtual formats.
If you are interested in highlights from 2019-2020, please check out the stories on our web site:
- Professor Annalisa Manera won a $5.2M ARPA-E grant to study digital twins
- Assistant Professor Brendan Kochunas won an award to build a virtual reality version of the Ford Nuclear Reactor.
- Professor John Foster’s work on developing a plasma wand for decontaminating surfaces received some press in the university’s response to COVID.
- Professor Sara Pozzi’s group did some nice collaborative work with the University of Illinois on catching nuclear smugglers.
- Adjunct Professor Tom Melhorne was named a Fellow of the American Nuclear Society
- Associate Research Scientist Mark Hammig led the NERS participation in a winning $51.5M proposal to DARPA to study irradiation interactions with matter.
- We ran the first ever Nuclear Energy Grand Challenge Prize Competition asking students to reimagine nuclear waste. The $17,000 winning team had a really clever idea.
- Professor John Lee published a new book and obtained a new reactor digital simulator.
- NERS graduate students Aaron Huxford, Nathan Giha, and Roxanne Pinsky were awarded fellowships from the National Science Foundation
- Kevin Field won a prestigious DOE Early Career Award
- NERS won $1.9M in NEUP awards covering thermal hydraulics, material science, reactor controls, and economics.
- Professor Karl Krushelnick was named the Henry J. Gomberg Collegiate Professor of Engineering
On a sad note, former faculty member and world-leading expert on neutron scattering John Carpenter passed away in March. I met him when I was a young scientist at Argonne and he was amazingly friendly and generous with his time. I remember thinking, “he is treating me as way smarter than I actually am.” A big loss. For anyone wanting to learn more, here is a link to John’s 2014 Osborn lecture. Also, thanks to Ron Fleming for teaching me that Carpenter Brothers hardware store on Plymouth Road exists because Jack convinced his brother to move to Ann Arbor and start the store.
We also lost Bob Albrecht, Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington and NERS PhD graduate.
To our alumni and friends, please always feel free to reach out with stories of your accomplishments or ideas for us to consider. We want you to be engaged and part of our success.