JUST Connections: NPRE’s Collaboration with Jordan University Travels Full Circle as First PhD is Awarded
An international collaboration NPRE began eight years ago with Jordan has gone full circle with the awarding of the first PhD to a student from the program.
Rabie Adullah Abu Saleem’s journey at the University of Illinois culminated in his diploma presentation at the December 2014 Commencement ceremony. Six years ago, fresh from having earned a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering at Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST), Abu Saleem had traveled to Illinois to earn graduate degrees in nuclear engineering, with a specialty in computational thermal-hydraulics.
Mohamed Khasawneh, a JUST professor who had come to Illinois in 2007 as a visiting faculty member in Electrical Engineering, and other JUST administrators had persuaded Abu Saleem that Illinois would be a good fit for him.
“They were emailing me back and forth and said it would be a good school,” he said. “That’s what made me come here.”
Now Abu Saleem will close the circle by returning to JUST as an assistant professor in the university’s relatively new Nuclear Engineering Department. The department has awarded 77 bachelor’s degrees since its establishment in 2007. NPRE faculty began working with JUST administrators and faculty members that year to assist the country’s effort to develop its own nuclear power resources.
NPRE Profs. Rizwan Uddin and Magdi Ragheb traveled to Jordan in March 2007 to make recommendations on curriculum. A scientific and educational delegation from JUST, including the university’s president, journeyed to Illinois a year later to continue the collaborative work and tour Illinois facilities.
Then, in 2010, NPRE faculty helped the country plan the first International Nuclear & Renewable Energy Conference (INREC ’10) to help define future energy directions for that region of the world.
Unlike many of its neighboring countries, Jordan is not rich in oil and is exploring nuclear power as a means to meet its energy needs. JUST’s establishment of its Nuclear Engineering Department was another step in the country’s efforts to develop its nuclear infrastructure, and to introduce nuclear power as part of its energy make-up.
Nuclear energy offers a promising approach to meeting Jordan's energy needs—an approach that would reduce the country’s dependence on oil imports, create jobs, raise standard of living, and alleviate the burden on the national budget: Jordan has been importing over 95 percent of its energy. In addition to providing electricity to fulfill the growing electrical demands of Jordan, nuclear energy may also be used for water desalination, and hydrogen production.
Within two years, the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) intends to enter into a final contract for the construction of two nuclear units. In September 2014 JAEC signed a project development agreement with Rusatom Overseas for that purpose. Since initiating its Nuclear Engineering Department, JUST also has established its own research reactor, and Abu Saleem plans to incorporate its use in his research. He’s excited about the prospect of the country’s emerging energy efforts.
“That was one of the main reasons that I wanted to be involved in nuclear; I’ll be one of the first people working on it,” Abu Saleem said. He’s happy to return to his home country, which he has visited only three times in the past six years. And he plans to recommend NPRE to his students seeking graduate degrees.
“It was interesting; I loved the curriculum” in NPRE, Abu Saleem said. “We covered basically all the things I wanted to learn – radiology, neutronics, materials, hydraulics – I got an idea of everything.” He also appreciated the range of electives offered outside NPRE’s required courses, and chose several mechanical engineering and theoretical and applied mechanics courses.
“People here made things very easy for me, especially the staff in the department. When I had a problem or a question, it didn’t take long for me to get an answer.”
Abu Saleem said NPRE also provided opportunities for him to travel to conferences, and he established several connections at Idaho National Laboratory. He found particularly worthwhile his trip in summer 2013 to Sweden’s spent nuclear fuel storage facilities.
“(NPRE’s offerings) weren’t routine; I wasn’t just taking classes. I learned much that I can relate to my research.”
Working with his NPRE advisor, Assistant Prof. Tomasz Kozlowski, an expert in computer simulations of nuclear reactors, Abu Saleem’s doctoral thesis was entitled, “Development of Two-Phase, Two-Fluid Model Solver Based on a High-Resolution Total Variation Diminishing Scheme.”