The University of Texas at El Paso was awarded $400,000 from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to facilitate graduate student success in nuclear science and engineering.
Leading this effort is principal investigator Ramana Chintalapalle, Ph.D., UTEP professor of mechanical engineering, and Soheil Nazarian, Ph.D., co-investigator and professor of civil engineering.
The four-year grant will fund multiple NRC Fellowships to UTEP students to participate in nuclear energy research at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Sandia National Laboratory. The UTEP NRC Fellows will spend time in these national labs to gain research experience through projects related to nuclear materials.
The UTEP team also will use the grant to study novel materials that can withstand extreme environments, like high temperatures and pressure, corrosive atmospheres and high intensity radiation, which are typical in nuclear reactors.
Chintalapalle’s team has been involved in the design and development of high-strength, durable structural alloys and ceramics for use in nuclear reactor applications.
The students will work closely with UTEP’s Center for Advanced Materials Research and Center for Infrastructure and Transportation Systems.
“Dr. Chintalapalle has done a remarkable job building such a strong program in extreme materials for national need and security,” said Theresa Maldonado, Ph.D., dean of the College of Engineering at UTEP.
“His collaboration with Dr. Nazarian creates a strong, solid collaboration that will lead to important research outcomes. In addition, both of these faculty have a sustained record of excellent mentoring and advising of graduate and undergraduate students.”
Chintalapalle said the U.S. nuclear industry is currently facing a concern with its rapidly diminishing workforce.
While the U.S. nuclear workforce is aging rapidly, the graduate student enrollment in traditional nuclear science and engineering disciplines in universities is also rapidly declining.
“This project is intended to create NRC Fellowship opportunities for our UTEP graduates to become successful in the topical area of nuclear materials,” Chintalapalle said. “The NRC fellowship will help alleviate some of the major emerging energy needs of the nation in a safe manner.”