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Spring 2019 Awards Roundup

Spring 2019 Awards Roundup

5/23/2019 3:35:00 PM Susan Mumm

Spring semester is awards time in NPRE, and 2019 has been no exception as we recognize the excellence of our students, faculty, staff and alumni.


David Ruzic
David Ruzic





David Ruzic wins Rose Award for Teaching Excellence

A faculty member in Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering, Ruzic has built a well-earned reputation for engaging students, being included in the List of Teachers Ranked Excellent by Their Students almost every semester since he started at the University of Illinois almost 35 years ago. Said NPRE Department Head Rizwan Uddin in nominating Ruzic for the honor, “Engineering and non-engineering students, alike, are transformed in their understanding of energy after encountering the Ruzic experience.

“The energy of (Ruzic’s) personality bursts forth as he teaches about energy, often by blowing things up,” Uddin wrote. “His class demonstrations have included burning coal in class so students can smell the sulfur being released. He has set up a still on the Quad to show how corn becomes gasohol. And he can be found standing in muck boots knee-high in the Boneyard Creek with a whiteboard to lecture about hydropower. The hands-on and practical demonstrations Professor Ruzic injects in his teaching is meant not only to entertain his students, but also to help them think for themselves about energy.”

Ruzic’s teaching methodology has been applied well in NPRE 101, Introduction to Energy Sources, and NPRE 201, Advanced Energy Systems – courses that tend to draw over 100 students, including non-engineering majors.

He has gone the extra mile in sharing his love for teaching by creating the Energy, Environment and Everyday Life video series, now available as a free Massive Open Online Course the university offers in conjunction with Coursera. Ruzic dedicated more than 1,000 hours during the three years needed to research, prepare, record and review the 130 video segments of the course. He developed 490 assessment questions and eight in-depth assignments so learners could probe deeper into the topics that include lessons on energy, chemistry, fuel cells, electricity and electric grids, coal, oil, natural gas, solar energy, wind energy, hydropower, nuclear energy, nuclear accidents (Chernobyl and Fukushima), nuclear waste, economics and fusion.

Ruzic has made the content available to his own students as well as to his colleagues. He also prepared for high school teachers potential lesson plans that fit within the Lab Science Standards the State of Illinois requires. He then distributed the online material to over 400 high school teachers in the state.

Katy Huff






Katy Huff wins Stanley H. Pierce Faculty Award

In recognition of her dedication in working with NPRE students, Assistant Prof. Kathryn D. Huff has been chosen as the 2019 winner of The Grainger College of Engineering Stanley H. Pierce Award.

Selected by the student-run Engineering Council, the annual Pierce Awards recognize one undergraduate student and one faculty member college-wide for their efforts to develop empathetic student-faculty cooperation.

“Professor Huff has exhibited a type of genuine interest and caring for the well-being of every student in the NPRE department,” said one student in nominating Huff, who was pleased and humbled by the honor. “Indeed, it’s definitely very gratifying that it came from the students,” Huff said.

A Blue Waters Assistant Professor for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), Huff directs the Advanced Reactors and Fuel Cycles Research Group in NPRE. Her work with students, particularly as an advisor to the Illinois student section of the American Nuclear Society, has extended far beyond the classroom and her own research program.

Huff often attends ANS meetings, has worked with the group on events such as National Nuclear Science Week held each fall, and travels with the students to the annual ANS Student Conferences, through which the Illinois group has won several awards over the past few years.

Huff earned a bachelor of arts degree in physics from the University of Chicago in 2008 and a PhD in nuclear engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2013. She gained research experience at a number of laboratories, including Los Alamos Neutron Science Center in New Mexico, Universidad de Chile in Santiago, Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics in Chicago, and Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. She was a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California-Berkeley Nuclear Science and Security Consortium and a Data Science Fellow at the Berkeley Institute for Data Science prior to joining the NPRE faculty in 2016.

Since coming to Illinois, Huff has earned the ANS Young Member Excellence Award in 2016 and the ANS Mary Jane Oestmann Professional Women’s Achievement Award in 2017. She was also the 2017 recipient of the Students Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching from her home department and has been listed among the University of Illinois Teachers Ranked as Excellent.

Huff has chaired the ANS Fuel Cycle & Waste Management Division and the Software Carpentry Foundation’s Steering Committee.

“Professor Huff not only strives to be an exceptional teacher, but also a dedicated undergraduate advisor, a distinguished research director, and a greatly supportive faculty advisor for the American Nuclear Society,” wrote another student. “She makes it clear that she cares about the success of her students just as much as she cares about the success of her research.”

Rizwan Uddin, ANS Student Chapter President Jacob Tellez, and Davide Curreli





ANS Student Chapter awards Teacher, Staff Member of the Year

The American Nuclear Society student chapter at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has chosen Associate Prof. Davide Curreli and NPRE Department Head and Professor Rizwan Uddin as the 2019 co-winners of the NPRE Students’ Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

The student organization chose communications specialist and alumni coordinator Susan Mumm for the 2019 NPRE Staff Award.

Winning the honor for the first time since joining NPRE as a faculty member in 2013, Curreli taught NPRE 421, Plasma and Fusion Science, in the Spring 2019 semester. Curreli has been listed several times among Teachers Ranked As Excellent by their students.

Uddin has been included on the List of Teachers Ranked Excellent nearly every semester he has taught since he began at Illinois in 1996. He has been chosen as the NPRE Teacher of the Year over a dozen times. In Spring 2019 Uddin taught NPRE 455, Neutron Diffusion and Transport.

Rizwan Uddin, Susan Mumm, and ANS Student Chapter President Jacob Tellez
Rizwan Uddin, Susan Mumm, and ANS Student Chapter President Jacob Tellez
Mumm’s duties include producing publications, website, and social media material; coordination of the NPRE Constituent Alumni and Industry Advisory Board; advancement efforts; and awards nominations for alumni and faculty.

She began working for the former Department of Theoretical & Applied Mechanics at Illinois in 1993. She split her time between NPRE and the Aerospace Engineering Department before joining NPRE 100 percent time since 2018. Mumm earned a master’s degree in journalism in 1992 at Illinois.


In accepting the NPRE Distinguished Alumni Award, Phi Nguyen encourages NPRE students to chase the euphoria of the long-shot, even if the try ends in failure.

Phi Nguyen chosen for NPRE Distinguished Alumni Award

Alumnus Phi L. Nguyen has been selected for the 2019 NPRE Distinguished Alumni Award.

Nguyen has been cited for inspiring and serving the NPRE community through his scientific excellence, corporate leadership, and generous philanthropy on behalf of NPRE students.

Retiring this year as a Vice President and Director of Engineering at Intel Corp. where he had worked for 28 years, Nguyen now provides consulting in the semiconductor industry. He also serves on NPRE’s alumni group, the Constituent Alumni and Industry Advisory Board.

In 2018 Nguyen established the Nguyen Thi Cuong Fellowship in NPRE to honor his mother, a remarkable woman who led her family out of Vietnam after the fall of Saigon. Nguyen was born in that city and, following a perilous journey, immigrated to the U.S. in 1975. He grew up in Rock Falls, Illinois, and was active in both academics and sports during his high school years. He earned a bachelor’s (1988) and master’s (1990) in NPRE before joining Intel.

The Distinguished Alumni Awards are presented to NPRE alumni who make notable advances in the field of nuclear science, and/or lasting contributions to society in general.

Thoughts from Phi

Of the achievements throughout your career, please elaborate on the ones that have given you the most satisfaction and why?

Graduating from Illinois was by far my most satisfying achievement. Growing up, my parents imparted in me how important it was to get a degree in our new country. My mother in particular believed firmly that an engineering degree would enable our success as a family in the U.S. There was definitely a LOT of pressure to get good grades and graduate. She was right. The degree enabled me to enter the growing semiconductor field and gave me the very first professional opportunity in my career.

What have been the most useful lessons you have taken from your time as an NPRE student, and who helped you to learn them?

No one wants to see their student fail. All of my professors had that attitude and went out of their way to help me understand and learn what they were teaching and ultimately succeed in my classes. I never fully understood this until I joined the workforce. Whether it was during my training or when I was doing the training later in my career, that attitude was the core of a successful business culture that proved over and over again the sooner the student is up the speed, the better it is for the team.

What have been the most useful lessons you have learned during your career?

Hard work definitely pays off.

Who have been your inspirations, particularly in NPRE?

Prof. David Ruzic. His unbridled enthusiasm about science and teaching was incredible. You just can’t help but go along for the ride, however sane or insane it might have been J

What advice can you offer current students?

Be yourself. Be focused. Have a goal and chase it … relentlessly.

In accepting the NPRE Advocate Award, Blair talks about doing good for the good of many, and nuclear engineering as a noble profession.

Blair Bromley chosen for NPRE 2019 Advocate Award

NPRE alumnus Dr. Blair P. Bromley, a reactor physicist at the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), is the 2019 winner of the NPRE Advocate Award.

Bromley, MS 98 Aerospace Engineering, PhD 01 NPRE, has been cited “for advancing NPRE's missions through his many years of excellent counsel, commitment to the NPRE Constituent Alumni and Industry Advisory Board, and generous philanthropy on behalf of NPRE students.” Bromley will be presented the award at the NPRE/ANS Student Chapter Honors Banquet to be held Thursday, April 18, 2019.

Bromley’s interaction with and service to NPRE has never lapsed; he became of member of the Department’s alumni board upon earning his degree. The advice he has provided for NPRE’s programs and initiatives has been constant throughout the years, and has been greatly valued. He also has been constant in his financial support of endowed funds named for many of NPRE’s founding professors and used to benefit student scholarship. Bromley and his wife, Jennifer, an Illinois alumnae (MA 97 Teaching of English as a Second Language, MA 00 Linguistics) also have been generous in supporting the NPRE Visionary Scholarship Program. Through the end of 2019, the Grainger Foundation matches gifts to NPRE Visionary Scholarships.

Bromley has worked at CNL (formerly Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) – Chalk River Laboratories) Canada, since 2003, and for two years prior to that was a postdoctoral research associate in nuclear engineering in the Department of Energy Science and Technology at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York.

The NPRE Advocate Award recognizes alumni and friends who have demonstrated their loyalty to NPRE through volunteer efforts, financial contributions, and/or other forms of advocacy.

Thoughts from Blair

Of the achievements throughout your career, please elaborate on the ones that have given you the most satisfaction and why?

As a graduate student at the University of Illinois in both AAE (M.Sc.) and NPRE (PhD), the achievements that gave me the greatest satisfaction were those where I served as a teaching assistant for several undergraduate and graduate courses in both AAE and NPRE. Serving as a teaching assistant gave me the opportunity to learn subject material to a more in-depth level, and also to help assist and train the next generation of engineers.

Post-graduation, I had the opportunity to work as post-doc/research associate in nuclear engineering in the Department of Energy Science and Technology at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) from 2001 to 2003. There, I contributed to independent reactor safety analysis work for the USNRC, and also to investigating advanced thorium-based fuels for PWRs. BNL was an excellent place to work, and I have fond memories of many of the staff there.

From 2003 up until the present (2019), I have been working as a Reactor Physicist at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL, formerly Atomic Energy of Canada – Chalk River Laboratories). I have worked on many different and interesting projects over the last 16 years, but perhaps the one that has given me the most satisfaction was a recent 3-year project (2015-2018) on the topic of science and technology development to enable the use of advanced fuels in pressure tube heavy water reactors (PT-HWRs). During this project, I served as Project Manager and Principal Investigator, providing supervision and oversight to more than 50 scientific staff over a 3-year period. As a result of our efforts, our multi-disciplinary team carried out numerous computational/analytical studies and performed many new experiments that helped obtain useful data and to identify new and better options for using advanced nuclear fuels (thorium-based fuels in particular) and fuel cycles for PT-HWRs. As a consequence, our diverse team of research scientists, engineers, and technical support staff published several dozen internal research reports, conference papers and journal papers, and we achieved all of our project deliverables on budget, and on schedule.

What have been the most useful lessons you have taken from your time as an NPRE student, and who helped you to learn them?

There are many useful lessons that I learned from many people when I was a graduate student in NPRE, but there are a number of key ones.

  • Emeritus Prof. Roy Axford: Most subjects can be learned and mastered, if one is willing to be methodical, and to spend the time and effort required to go through material step-by-step. If one has not solved a problem, it is okay, as long as you continue to think about it.
  • Emeritus Prof. George Miley: To be open minded about unconventional ideas. Technical marketing and salesmanship are important skills to develop and exercise. Convincing technical writing requires a positive tone, describing what can be done, and what has been learned.
  • The late Emeritus Prof. Barclay Jones: To truly master a subject, one must develop an intuitive physical understanding.
  • Prof. David Ruzic: To engage the public and the masses, one must be prepared to simplify complex ideas and explain such ideas in terms that can be understood by non-scientists.
  • (NPRE alumnus and co-NPRE 2019 Advocate Award winner) Brian Jurczyk: Engineers are smart, and can figure things out, even without having prior knowledge. Do not accept or believe in the “No-Win Scenario”.
  • (NPRE alumnus) Robert Stubbers: Fear of failure can actually be a positive, powerful ally, if it motivates you to be more creative, innovative and to work harder.

What have been the most useful lessons you have learned during your career?

  • One must have patience and persistence to achieve one’s goals, especially when faced with adversity.
  • Tolerance and diplomacy are always required in the workplace.
  • If you want something, you need to be assertive and ask for it.
  • The Golden Rule applies.

Who have been your inspirations, particularly in NPRE?

  • My wife, Jennifer Lai Bromley (M.A., DEIL, 1997, M.A. Linguistics, 1999).

Within NPRE, many professors and support staff (past and present), and fellow graduate students have been inspirational, through their teaching, supervisory, professional and volunteer activities. A number of individuals in NPRE who come to mind including the following:

  • Emeritus Prof. Roy Axford (my doctoral advisor)
  • Emeritus Prof. George Miley (my master’s advisor)
  • The Late Emeritus Prof. Barclay Jones (former NPRE Department Chair)
  • Prof. Rizwan Uddin (current NPRE Department Chair)
  • Prof. Jim Stubbins (former NPRE Department Chair)
  • The Late Emeritus Prof. Daniel Hang (a big supporter of the ANS)
  • Prof. Magdi Ragheb (whom I served as a teaching assistant)
  • Prof. David Ruzic (whom I served as a teaching assistant)
  • Celia Elliott (former administrative assistant for Prof. Miley)
  • Caroline Killingsworth (former NPRE support staff)
  • Becky Meline (NPRE support staff)
  • Robert Stubbers (fellow graduate student)
  • Bryan Jurczyk (fellow graduate student)
  • John Demora (fellow graduate student)
  • Luis Chacon de la Rosa (fellow graduate student)
  • Yibin Gu (fellow graduate student)
  • Jalal (Jay) Javedani (former NPRE post-doc / research staff)
  • Mike Williams (former NPRE technical support staff member)
  • Susan Mumm (current NPRE staff)

In addition to NPRE staff, there were several individuals in the Aerospace Engineering Department (AAE) who were also inspirational, including:

  • Emeritus Prof. Wayne Solomon (former AAE Department Chair, and my master’s advisor)
  • Emeritus Prof. Rodney Burton (whom I served as a teaching assistant)
  • Emeritus Prof. Shee-Mang Yen (former AAE professor)
  • Prof. Robert Beddini (former AAE professor)
  • Nicholas Tiliakos (fellow graduate student)
  • Joshua Hopkins (AAE undergraduate student, fellow Illini Space Development Society (ISDS) member)
  • Jeff Norr (AAE undergraduate student, fellow Illini Space Development Society (ISDS) member)
  • Scott McLaren (Physics Department, fellow Illini Space Development Society (ISDS) member)
  • Susan Del Medico (former AAE graduate student)

What advice can you offer current students?

  • Work hard, but get plenty of rest, and give yourself time for exercise.
  • Do not be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand.
  • Take as many different courses in nuclear engineering as you can (do not just do the bare minimum required).
  • Having excellent oral and written communication skills will be very important in your career as a professional. Learn to read and write well.
  • If you are an undergraduate, do a number of co-op terms outside of academia to gain work experience before you graduate. It will help build your resume/CV, and it will also help you to better understand what your strengths are, and what you enjoy doing.
  • If you are a graduate student, take the opportunity to work outside of academia during your time in graduate school by working at National Laboratories, or private sector companies.
  • Diversify your educational, academic and work experience.
  • Be a pro-active (not passive) professional. Become a member and participate in professional societies associated with nuclear science and technology, such as the American Nuclear Society (ANS), and others.
  • Public engagement and education is a social responsibility and an obligation of all nuclear professionals. Volunteer your time to help educate the public.
  • Never take things for granted. Recognize and appreciate your benefits.
  • Be assertive, but mindful and respectful. If you want or need something, you need to ask for it.

Do you have any comments on or predictions for the future of your industry?

The long-term future for nuclear science and technology and the use of nuclear energy are both good.

It is recognized that there have been several “speed bumps” along the way for the Nuclear Renaissance, causing delays and slowdowns, but ultimately, the wider spread use of Nuclear Energy in the international community and the implementation and deployment of various advanced nuclear technologies, along with technologies for recycling fuel and destroying radioactive wastes, will prevail and grow.

The world needs more clean energy to ensure a high standard of living and quality of life, and nuclear is the best option in the “All of the Above” approach.

As the current nuclear industry continues to “climb the learning curve”, evolutionary improvements in operations, standardization, management of large projects, and procurement will bring down the costs of nuclear energy.

Currently, nuclear energy is not on a “level playing field” with other energy technologies. Those who work in the nuclear sector will need to advocate and lobby for government policy changes to change this situation.

A more rational and logical pricing scheme that gives proper credit for clean, reliable, resilient, and robust energy resources will favor the use of nuclear energy.

Cost vs. benefit analyses applied to the nuclear regulation and environmental assessments will help streamline processes and procedures, to ensure that only what is necessary will be done. This approach will further help reduce the costs of nuclear energy and make it more competitive in the long-run.

In accepting the NPRE Advocate Award, Brian talks about entrepreneurship, the holistic nature of NPRE, and how the department works for its students.

Brian Jurczyk chosen for NPRE 2019 Advocate Award

Dr. Brian E. Jurczyk, co-founder and President/Chief Executive Officer of Champaign, Illinois-based Starfire Industries, LLC, is the 2019 winner of the NPRE Advocate Award.

Jurczyk, BS 95 Aerospace Engineering, MS 97 NPRE, PhD 01 NPRE, MBA 01, and his partner, fellow NPRE alumnus Robert Stubbers, founded Starfire in the University of Illinois Research Park soon after they each earned their doctoral degrees. Starfire specializes in ultra-compact particle accelerators for nuclear applications in imaging, geophysics, security and non-destructive evaluation, and pulsed power and microwave plasma sources for advanced thin-film deposition and etching for specialty nuclear coatings, semiconductor and material science applications. The company sells products on six continents.

Jurczyk is co-inventor on more than 10 patents related to these technologies. He holds the distinction of being the first doctoral candidate to obtain both his PhD and MBA degrees at the same time at the University of Illinois. Jurczyk received the Innovation Celebration “Entrepreneurial Excellence in Management Award,” and was named to Central Illinois Business’ “40-under-40.” For six years, he chaired the CEO Roundtable, a quarterly executive networking forum serving the greater Champaign-Urbana tech ecosystem.

Jurczyk mentors startups and emerging small businesses through their formation and early-stage growth phases. He is a limited partner in two venture capital funds making strategic investments in the Midwest and has been a member of the Urbana-Champaign Angel Network (UCAN).

In 2009, Jurczyk joined the industrial advisory board for the Center for Lasers and Plasmas for Advanced Manufacturing (CLPAM) Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC). He serves as an Adjunct Engineering Research Professor in NPRE, providing mentorship for both undergraduate and graduate STEM students and serving on thesis committees.

Jurczyk has been a member of the NPRE Constituent Alumni and Industry Advisory Board since its inception, and Starfire Industries has provided internships, full-time and sabbatical opportunities for several NPRE alumni and faculty over the years.

Thoughts from Brian 

Of the achievements throughout your career, please elaborate on the ones that have given you the most satisfaction and why?

The most recent example is when I went to a conference in Europe. I was watching a program manager from CERN on stage and he presented to the world conformal coating of complex 3D surfaces for superconducting RF accelerator cavities that will upgrade the LHC collider in France/Switzerland using HiPIMS+KICK from our company’s IMPULSE product—and they are incredibly optimistic about the future with this new capability. As a small business owner, there is nothing more satisfying than going to a conference and watching someone else excitedly use this thing that you helped bring to life… and then turns around to help enable the future…

FYI, our IMPULSE HiPIMS technology has applications for accident tolerant fuels, fuel pellet coatings, fusion materials protection and advanced detectors for radiation detection. You will hear a theme from me…. Nuclear, materials, plasmas, interaction with matter. NPRE.

What have been the most useful lessons you have taken from your time as an NPRE student, and who helped you to learn them?

The laws of physics are the same whether you are an electrical engineer, a physicist, an aerospace engineer, a material scientist, a mechanical person, etc. It could be i, -i, j, -j… it is the same thing. It is just nomenclature, different words for the same thing and rules of thumb, laws, constants and approaches that lead to job security for those degrees. Associate with people that are not constrained by nomenclature and seek the fundamental truth. Only then… can you combine knowledge from multiple fields to innovate and create new.

I learned that myself, as an aerospace engineer transferring into NPRE for grad school… suddenly confronted with new terms, formulations and approaches for what are all just the same laws of conservation. Thank you, (NPRE Emeritus Prof.) Roy Axford, for introducing me to Emmy Noether. Brilliant!

What have been the most useful lessons you have learned during your career?

Understand the problem of your customer’s customer. Look through them to the end solution and end challenge… and then work backwards to anticipate what is needed and what is coming. This has been the key to Starfire success.

Since the 1980s, Total Quality Management brought Waterfall Product Development that has absolutely crushed US leadership in manufacturing and destroyed the US competitive base. What do I mean by this? The waterfall model is a linear sequential model in which you establish requirements for the product from the customer, do a detailed design that meets that requirement, verify and validate and then build it… and hope it all work together at the end. This model assumes that the customer has perfect knowledge and that they have communicated to you exactly what they want/need and that the requirements are not going to change. In reality, no one has perfect knowledge and when a slight change is introduced and upsets the entire process and introduces huge risks, delays and technological problems because your product was segmented into 10 different DOEs and tested independently that does not work when it all comes together with all the risk in the end.

U.S. dominance in software and internet engineering in Silicon Valley was due mostly to agile development and manufacturing approaches were built in from where the beginning is: the customer does not know fully what they want, the requirements are always going to change, we need to get the customer early prototypes and minimum viable products so they can USE it and find out what they really wanted after all. Starfire is agile, we look past our customer and we work with them to help them figure out what they really need. We become an extension of their team in order to solve the problem. We have succeeded where others have failed because of this approach.

I look at SpaceX and see this… every Falcon 9 they build is different. It incorporates the next set of changes into the next released stable build. NO TWO THINGS ARE THE SAME… and THAT IS OKAY if your system and culture is based on the agile philosophy that change is the requirement. With this agile philosophy, they have moved 5-10 times quicker and over the course of two years they went from a minor launcher to dominating the industry and putting the Russians out of business and outcompeting the Chinese national launch provider.

Who have been your inspirations, particularly in NPRE?

(NPRE Emeritus Prof.) George Miley (my thesis advisor) was NOT afraid to talk to ANYONE that would walk in his door with a “new theory” or “off-the-wall” idea. I got my PhD during the heyday of Cold Fusion. I watched George walk through the fire to treat everyone with respect and listen to their ideas. He was not afraid to experiment, test it out, challenge the conventional wisdom, and give it a go. It cost him politically and it strained relationships—but in the end he showed everyone that it takes perseverance to find the truth and to challenge the standard model. Entire fields of science and engineering have been created because someone had the courage to go against the grain and try something out. I am not afraid to question because of George.

My officemates in graduate school were Blair Bromley (co-winner of the 2019 Advocate Award) and Robert Stubbers. Both asked questions and attacked problems from different angles to build understanding. Robert Stubbers showed me that you can build it and learn. Blair Bromley showed me you can model it and learn. You gain both ways and this build understanding and challenges your assumptions and precepts. Robert is a true MacGyver. He has shown me that you must build it to truly understand it. And building it yourself… is the key to keeping costs down! He has invented countless inventions and he has shown me that we really need a time dilator or to move to Venus to get more hours in the day.

Sixteen years ago, I developed a great friendship with (NPRE Prof.) David Ruzic when I joined CPMI as a post-doctoral researcher. David had a passion for plasmas that could inspire excitement and enthusiasm in people and give them hope. He was not afraid to talk to ANYONE to understand their problem and to figure out a solution—often developing lasting relationships with companies and industrial partners that have benefited NPRE 100-fold. David did a sabbatical leave from NPRE in 2009, joined Starfire for nine months, and formed a good team with us visualizing the physics (Dave), making the business case for it (Brian) and showing it could be done (Robert). David is on his next sabbatical actually using equipment developed by Starfire, on an idea he co-invented and Starfire patented, at a customer site that makes the lithographic technology used by Intel, Samsung, TSMC and Global Foundries for printing low-node semiconductors. His work-hard, play-hard lifestyle (and special IPA that we had brewed at Triptych with this name) continues to be an inspiration.

What advice can you offer current students?

For undergraduates: The University works for you. You pay the salaries, infrastructure and upkeep of the place. This means that the professors are ethically, morally and contractually bound to help you with your education. Think of them as the contractors on the foundation for your dream home. You get to review the plans, ask questions, be on the job site often, hold them accountable and expect excellence. Any if they did not get it done right, you tell them to go back and fix it. Translation: Illinois is a TIER 1 research intuition with a world-class faculty, equipment and capabilities. You are paying to be here. You get to use it. $M SEM machines, check, $M accelerators, check, $M DNA sequencers, check, $M supercomputers, check.

My eye-opening lesson was the day I graduated… I now needed to PAY to use an engineering workstation to do computational code simulations. As an undergrad… entire floors in a building could be parallelized and codes ran. The day I wanted to do graduate research or access as a private outside person… $100k for a year and lots of paperwork. SO, I expect you undergrads to get involved in 2-3 research groups, work on projects with professors and teams, get published, get involved in a business startup competition, do co-ops and internships that are facilitated through faculty relationships, do independent study BECAUSE YOU CAN. $20k per year in tuition is a heck of a lot cheaper than $100k later as an industrial company offering a research project to a student. IDEAS GROW when you are in undergrad. The university is your incubator.

Do you have any comments on or predictions for the future of your industry?

Nuclear is experiencing an amazing renaissance. There is a HUGE investment in fission, new concepts and startup company/VC investment for small modular, low regulation, advanced fuel concepts. Fusion is crazy! There are at least 10 companies with >$10M in VC (venture capital) investment (TAE is over $500M) for advanced plasma systems development… and more is on the way. It is led by materials and cross-over technologies that are challenging the status quo. The future is very bright. Energy is the driver for all civilization. You cannot go wrong with an NPRE degree. On the medical/radiological side, there is awesome investment in detector and AI/ML (artificial intelligence/markup language) that is opening the door for medical advances. I see more big data and AI decision changing the way we do business. Companies use AI to harvest data and find new regimes and plasma modes for operation. Fission core optimization with ML. Radiographic reconstruction and medical imaging is amazing. Detectors and radiation measurement are the feeds for this innovation. At the heart of all of this is material science and information. The field is cross-disciplinary.

Are there any other comments that you would like to make or insights you would care to share?

As I travel the world, I see many opportunities to be an advocate for Nuclear, Plasma and Radiological Engineering…bringing potential partnerships, companies, research opportunities, infrastructure, internships, full-time positions, etc. to the department. The NPRE focus to give its undergraduates full, rich and diverse experience… so the undergrads have internships, have foreign exchange to participate in the worldwide nuclear renaissance and plasma material interaction experience… is important. I look forward to continuing to work on this legacy.

Xiang Liu







Xiang Liu wins Ross Martin Award

Xiang Liu, who earned his doctorate in Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering in 2018, is the 2019 winner of The Grainger College of Engineering Ross Martin Award.

The Martin Award recognizes the year’s most outstanding research achievement by a graduate student in the college. The honor is a memorial to Ross J. Martin, Associate Dean of the College, who served as director of the Engineering Experiment Station for 26 years, until his death in 1984.

Liu also was the national winner of the American Nuclear Society’s 2018 Mark Mills Award. That honor recognizes the graduate student author who submits the best original technical paper contributing to the advancement of science and engineering related to the atomic nucleus.

Currently a postdoctoral research scientist in the Characterization and Advanced Post-Irradiation Examination Division at Idaho National Laboratory, Liu focused his research on understanding how different types of irradiation affects the microstructural evolution in advanced reactor candidate alloys, and how these radiation-induced microstructural changes affect the material property.






Student excellence recognized in 2019 Honors Banquet

Students’ outstanding efforts in academics, research, service and leadership were recognized during the 2019 NPRE & ANS Honors Banquet.

Held in April in conjunction with the American Nuclear Society Illinois Student Chapter organization, the NPRE event recognizes students for earning honors from the Department, Grainger College of Engineering, campus, national organizations and corporate partners. The event is sponsored in part by the Edward E. Mineman Memorial Endowment Fund. NPRE alumnus Edward F. Mineman, BS 84, and his brother Blaine A. Mineman, AB 85, Political Science, MBA 87, established the fund to honor their father. The NPRE unrestricted fund, supported by many alumni and friends, also helps pay for this event that invites participation of all NPRE students.

NPRE Departmental Awards

The NPRE Outstanding Academic Achievement Awards to a Graduating Senior are presented to graduating seniors with the highest cumulative grade point averages.

  • William R. Brockschmidt, Jacksonville, IL

The NPRE Outstanding Undergraduate Research Awards are presented to undergraduate students who have performed exemplary research in the Department.

  • Heyuan Huang, Beijing, People’s Republic of China
  • Cody D. Moynihan, Milstadt, IL
  • Dean R. Price, Winter Park, FL
  • Stuti R. Surani, Vadodara, India

The Catherine Pritchard Undergraduate Scholarships, honoring former NPRE secretary Catherine Pritchard, are presented to students who have shown academic ability and activities leadership during their first three years, to be used during the senior year of study.

  • Alexandra T. Fanning, Naperville, IL
  • Isabella M. Iaccino, Iverness, IL
  • Kelsey E. Luo, Woodridge, IL

The Roy A. Axford Undergraduate Scholarship, honoring NPRE Emeritus Prof. Roy A. Axford, is presented to continuing students of high academic ability and achievement.

  • Dean R. Price, Winter Park, FL

The George H. Miley/Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR) Undergraduate Scholarship, honoring NPRE Emeritus Prof. George H. Miley, is presented to highly motivated, continuing undergraduate students in the Department.

  • Michelle L. McCord, Canton, GA
  • Andrew G. Kim
  • Andrew J. Page, Naperville, IL
  • Dario G. Panici, New Lenox, IL

NPRE Visionary Scholarships assist tremendously with recruiting and retaining NPRE’s best and brightest undergraduate students. These scholarships are designed to be transformational, and can make a tangible difference in a student’s ability to afford attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Exelon Corporation, a Chicago-based Fortune 100 utility company that works in every stage of the energy business – power generation, competitive energy sales, transmission and delivery – has been instrumental in establishing Engineering Visionary Scholarships within NPRE. Several individuals also have contributed to NPRE Visionary Scholarships.

  • David J. Atwater, Downers Grove, IL
  • Michael A. Chiasson, Long Grove, IL
  • Andrew E. Christensen, Buffalo Grove, IL
  • Erin R. Fanning, Naperville, IL
  • Connor A. Pigg, Mount Vernon, IL
  • Anthony R. Ruzzo, Naperville, IL
  • Matthew A. Weiss, Vernon Hills, IL

The Marvin E. Wyman Memorial Scholarships were established in honor of Marvin E. Wyman, one of the first two professors hired to build the nuclear engineering program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Having earned a master’s degree and a PhD in physics in 1943 and 1950, respectively, at Illinois, Professor Wyman was instrumental in overseeing the construction and use of the TRIGA nuclear reactor at Illinois. He also helped establish the university’s undergraduate and doctoral programs in nuclear engineering. He became chairman of the nuclear engineering program in 1965, and in 1975 he became assistant to the dean for long-range planning in the College of Engineering. The Marvin E. Wyman Memorial Scholarship was established in 1984.

  • Alex M. Berowski, Smithton, IL
  • Andrew J. Ingram, Sidney, IL
  • Dylan Irlbeck, Lake Zurich, IL

The Felix T. Adler Fellowship was named in honor of Professor Adler, who held a joint appointment in Physics and Nuclear Engineering from 1958 until his retirement. Professor Adler and Prof. Marvin E. Wyman were the first two professors hired to build the Nuclear Engineering program. The Felix T. Adler Fellowship was established in 1987.

  • Vineet Kumar, Champaign, IL

NPRE alumnus Phi L. Nguyen, BS 88, MS 90, established the Nguyen Thi Cuong Fellowship in 2018 to honor his mother. Preference is given to students with financial need.

  • Rabel E. Rizkallah

Several alumni and friends established the Barclay G. Jones Graduate Fellowship in honor of Professor Jones, an icon of the University of Illinois nuclear engineering program since its inception. Professor Jones earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. at the University of Illinois, and made his career here, helping to shape the present day department. The Barclay G. Jones Endowment Fund is the continued effort of NPRE graduates who also established the Catherine Pritchard Undergraduate Scholarship.

  • Zhiee Jhia Ooi

American Nuclear Society Student Chapter Awards

The Student Chapter of the American Nuclear Society selects the ANS Undergraduate Outstanding Service Award recipient. The undergraduate students who have most actively supported the ANS Student Chapter and its programs throughout the academic year are honored.

  • James Shehee, Naperville, IL

The Student Chapter of the American Nuclear Society selects the ANS Graduate Outstanding Service Award recipient. The graduate students who have most actively supported the ANS Student Chapter and its programs throughout the academic year are honored.

  • Nathan C. Reid, Naperville, IL

American Nuclear Society National Awards

2018 John and Muriel Landis Scholarship

  • Anshuman Chaube, India
  • Andrei Rykhlevskii, Russia

2018 Michael Lineberry Graduate Scholarship

  • Carly J. Romnes, Dulce, NM

2018 William R. and Mila Kimel Nuclear Engineering Scholarship

  • Jacob A. Tellez, Monument, CO

2018 John R. Lamarsh Memorial Scholarship

  • Alyssa L. Hayes, Gurnee, IL

Other Scholarships, Fellowships, Honors

Nuclear Regulatory Commission - University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Nuclear Engineering Scholarship and Fellowship Program

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission directs this program that includes support for education in nuclear science and engineering, to develop a workforce capable of supporting the design, construction, operation, and regulation of nuclear facilities and the safe handling of nuclear materials.


  • Adewale A. Adeyinka, Hoffman Estates, IL
  • William R. Brockschmidt, Jacksonville, IL
  • Lauren N. Ditmars, Byron, IL
  • Alexandra T. Fanning, Naperville, IL
  • Nathan M. Kennedy, Crystal Lake, IL
  • Tyler R. Kennelly, Oswego, IL
  • Matthew J. Kozak, Orland Park, IL
  • Dylan R. Kudia, Plainfield, IL
  • Kelsey E. Luo, Woodridge, IL
  • Dario G. Panici, New Lenox, IL
  • Dean R. Price, Winter Park, FL
  • Ryan J. Pullara, Minooka, IL
  • Jacob A. Tellez, Monument, CO
  • Maxx J. Villotti, Troy, IL


  • Alexander L. Heald, Bonsall, CA
  • Dominic R. Piedmont, Timonium, MD
  • Zoe R. Richter, Manito, IL

U.S. Department of Energy, Nuclear Energy University Program

The U.S. Department of Energy awards Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) Scholarships and Fellowships to students pursuing nuclear energy-related engineering and science degrees.


  • Joseph L. Bottini, Framingham, MA
  • Katherine C. Hepler, Urbana, IL
  • Daniel J. O’Grady, Evergreen Park, IL

National Nuclear Security Administration Stewardship Science

This graduate research fellowship is sponsored by the Department of Energy.

  • Heather N. Sandefur, Batesville, AR

National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation has awarded a Graduate Research Fellowship to support the studies of Matthew Parsons, who is working with HIDRA, the unique plasma/fusion facility in the Center for Plasma-Material Interactions.


  • Mikayla M. Molnar
  • Matthew S. Parsons, Westminster, MD
  • Daniel J. O’Grady, Evergreen Park, IL

Honorable Mention:

  • Sonata M. Valaitis

Roy G. Post Foundation

Dedicated to the safe management of nuclear materials, the Roy G. Post Foundation has awarded a scholarship to PhD student Katherine C. Hepler, whose research focuses on integrating experimental data with simulation to understand how rapid decontamination logistics following a radiological dispersal event affect remediation outcomes such as duration and overall decontamination efficacy.

  • Katherine C. Hepler, Urbana, IL

Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation R&D

This national-level nuclear security meeting recognized graduate student Aric C. Tate for his research poster, “Muon Tomography with Fast Timing for Fissile Material Detection.”

  • Aric C. Tate

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Oak Ridge National Laboratory awarded graduate student Nathan C. Reid First Place for his research in the Nuclear Engineering Science Laboratory Synthesis (NESLS) program at the end of the summer 2018 session. Reid’s project, “Glow-Discharge Optical Emission Spectroscopy of Neutron-Irradiated Tungsten,” was performed as part of the U.S.-Japan PHENIX Cooperation Project on Technological Assessment of Plasma Facing Components for DEMO Fusion Reactors.

  • Nathan C. Reid, Naperville, IL

University of Illinois

Graduate College Fellowship

The Graduate College Fellowship (GCF) program at the University of Illinois aims to strengthen the institution and its doctoral programs by increasing the enrollment of outstanding students.

  • Carly J. Romnes, Dulce, NM
  • Nico Santiago

Sloan Fellowship

The Sloan University Center of Exemplary Mentoring (UCEM) at Illinois aims to broaden participation in advanced engineering, physical, and mathematical science careers, thereby strengthening the talent pool in these fields while increasing equitable opportunities in the US.

  • Alexander L. Heald, Bonsall, CA
  • Carly J. Romnes, Dulce, NM

Grainger College of Engineering

Carver Fellowship

The Carver Fellowships in Engineering at Illinois were established in 1999 by a gift from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust in memory of Roy J. Carver, Sr., a 1934 graduate of the University. A Carver Fellowship is the most competitive and sought-after honor open to graduate students throughout the College of Engineering. Students named as Carver Fellows are not only viewed as scholars and top researchers in both academia and industry, but also carry with them the legacy of a distinguished University of Illinois alumnus, who founded Bandag, Inc., the world’s largest producer of tire retread materials and equipment of the transportation industry. The Carver Fellowships exert a profound impact on the quality and quantity of research conducted at the University of Illinois by creating the framework for significant fellowship support. Moreover, these prestigious awards carry with them a life-long identification with the top research talent coming from Engineering at Illinois.

  • Jeremy J.H. Mettler, Sioux Falls, SD

SURGE Fellowship

Illinois Engineering departments nominate incoming doctoral students from under-represented communities for the SURGE Fellowship program, which is administered by the College of Engineering. This fellowship is designed to increase diversity within the engineering student body.

  • Mikayla M. Molnar
  • Carly J. Romnes, Dulce, NM
  • Nico Santiago
  • Sonata M. Valaitis

Calvin Barnes Niccolls Memorial Scholarship

The Calvin Barnes Niccolls Scholarship Fund was established in 1962 to honor the memory of Calvin B. Niccolls a student in the College of Engineering from 1895-1897.

New Scholarships

  • Benjamin A. Duban
  • Angelo J. Minetti, New Lenox, IL

Contratto St. Clair County Scholarship

The James Contratto Scholarship Fund was established in 2010 as the result of an estate gift from Nina Contratto in memory of her husband James Contratto, a 1931 Civil Engineering graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. These scholarships are awarded to engineering students from St. Clair County, Illinois.

Continuing Scholarship

  • Alex M. Berowski, Smithton, IL

Engineering Excellence Scholarship

These scholarships are awarded to students who demonstrate extremely high performance in ACT or SAT examinations and high school work.

Continuing Scholarship

  • Alyssa L. Hayes, Gurnee, IL

Engineering Visionary Scholarship

Launched with the help of a $30 million endowment from the Grainger Engineering Breakthroughs Initiative, the Engineering Visionary Scholarship (EVS) Initiative boosts the College of Engineering’s ability to bring the best engineers to Illinois by making college more affordable for students and their families.

New Scholarships

  • Parker A. Allen, Edwardsville, IL
  • Diego Angulo, Joliet, IL
  • Rierson M. Johnson, Island Lake, IL

EVS Transfer Scholarship

  • Jordan Heidrick, Danville, IL

Continuing Scholarships

  • Adolfo Baca, Addison, IL
  • Nayeli Lara, West Chicago, IL

George H. Zenner and Leone Merritt Scholarship

The scholarship was a realized estate gift for unrestricted scholarship support to the College of Engineering. George Zenner was a 1927 graduate of Mechanical Engineering.

Continuing Scholarship

  • Matthew J. Kozak, Orland Park, IL

Illinois Engineering Achievement Scholarship

These scholarships are awarded to students who demonstrate extremely high performance in ACT or SAT examinations and high school work.

New Scholarships

  • Parker A. Allen, Edwardsville, IL
  • Diego Angulo, Joliet, IL
  • Bruno J. Caruso, Lemont, IL
  • Morgan Currier, Mokena, IL
  • Gavin Davis, Oswego, IL
  • Benjamin Duban
  • Justice Dunham, Plainfield, IL
  • Justin B. Hearne, Mokena, IL
  • Rierson M. Johnson, Island Lake, IL
  • Angelo J. Minetti, New Lenox, IL
  • Shyam M. Upadhyay, Bloomingdale, IL

Continuing Scholarships

  • Alex M. Berowski, Smithton, IL
  • Matthew J. Kozak, Orland Park, IL
  • Michelle L. McCord, Canton, GA
  • Eliza D. Wright, Naperville, IL

Illinois Engineering Premier Scholarship

These scholarships are awarded to students who demonstrate extremely high performance in ACT or SAT examinations and high school work.

Continuing Scholarship

  • Connor A. Pigg, Mount Vernon, IL

Joanne and Roger L. Plummer Scholarship

The Joanne and Roger L. Plummer Scholarship Fund was established in 1997 to provide future scholarships for engineering students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Mr. Plummer was a 1964 graduate of the College of Engineering in Applied Mechanics. Mr. and Mrs. Plummer served as ambassadors for the University and as first couple for the Alumni Association during Mr. Plummer’s term as President.

New Scholarship

  • Bruno J. Caruso, Lemont, IL

John and Dorothy Durkin Women in Engineering Scholarship

The Durkin Scholarship is intended to support scholarships for women in Engineering. Established by Jane Durkin, a 1982 graduate of Civil Engineering, the fund was named to honor her parents, John and Dorothy.

Continuing Scholarship

  • Michelle L. McCord, Canton, GA

The Patterson Family Scholarship

The Patterson Family Scholarship Fund was established by Gene and Jean Patterson and provides scholarships to engineering students who graduated from Canton High School, Canton, Illinois. Mr. Patterson earned his BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois in 1968.

New Scholarship

  • Nicholas A. Dailey, Canton, IL

William E. Kinkead Scholarship

William S. Kinkead was a Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the 1920’s. Due to his generosity the William S. Kinkead Scholarship Fund was established in 1991 to help future students and to confirm Mr. Kinkead’s commitment to the future of Engineering at Illinois.

New Scholarship

  • Morgan Currier, Mokena, IL

Master of Engineering in Energy Systems

Taber International Scholars
The Taber International Scholarships, established by NPRE alumnus Bradley J. Radl, are awarded to graduate students earning a Master of Engineering in Energy Systems.

  • Bradley J. Flanagan, Fairport, NY
  • Kruti S.C. Goyal
  • Christopher J. Hillebrand, Cookeville, TN

Alpha Nu Sigma

ANS established Alpha Nu Sigma as a national honor society with the objective to recognize high scholarship, integrity, and potential achievement in nuclear science and engineering.

Continuing Members:

  • Jin Whan Bae, Champaign, IL
  • Joseph L. Bottini, Framingham, MA
  • William R. Brockschmidt, Jacksonville, IL
  • Zhikun Cai, Jiaomei Town, China
  • Mikhail S. Finko, Clarendon Hills, IL
  • Aveek S. Kapat, Oviedo, FL
  • Vineet Kumar, Champaign, IL
  • Jeremy J. Mettler, Sioux Falls, SD
  • Cody D. Moynihan, Milstadt, IL
  • Daniel J. O’Grady, Evergreen Park, IL
  • Dhruval K. Patel, Hanover Park, IL
  • Pawel A. Piotrowicz, Chicago, IL
  • Majdi I.A. Radaideh, Champaign, IL
  • Nathan C. Reid, Naperville, IL
  • Zoe R. Richter, Manito, IL
  • Steven A. Stemmley, Bethalto, IL
  • Matthew M. Szott, Orland Park, IL
  • Jan P. Uhlig, Chicago, IL
  • Jifu Zhao, Urbana, IL
  • Weicheng Zhong, Champaign, IL
  • Erik P. Ziehm, Palatine, IL

University of Illinois Honors

Chancellor's Scholars are strongly motivated, academically gifted students who excel in leadership. Students participate in honors seminars, attend Scholar Adventurers presentations, and participate in social, intellectual and cultural activities, plus maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.25.

  • Alp Aktuna, Edwardsville, IL
  • Parker A. Allen, Edwardsville, IL
  • Alex M. Berowski, Smithton, IL
  • William R. Brockschmidt, Jacksonville, IL
  • Benjamin A. Duban
  • Andew A.J. Ingram, Sidney, IL
  • Dario G. Panici, New Lenox, IL
  • Zoe R. Richter, Manito, IL

The James Scholars program is named for the fourth president of the University, Edmund J. James who believed that scholarship and research are fundamental to human progress. During his presidency, from 1904-1920, he brought world-class scholars to campus, developed graduate programs, and fostered community among faculty and students. He helped build Illinois's international reputation.

  • Liam G. Ackerman, Bolingbrook, IL
  • Parker A. Allen, Edwardsville, IL
  • Diego Angulo, Joliet, IL
  • Stephen D. Armstrong, Eldridge, MD
  • Benjamin A. Duban
  • Heyuan Huang, Beijing, People’s Republic of China
  • Rierson M. Johnson, Island Lake, IL
  • Cody D. Moynihan, Millstadt, IL
  • Connor A. Pigg, Mount Vernon, IL
  • Julia K. Roessler
  • Jack T. Stahl, Arlington Heights, IL
  • Eliza D. Wright, Naperville, IL

Grainger College of Engineering Honors

Open House
Students in the Virtual Education and Research Laboratory (VERL) were recognized with Third Place for Most Engaging Exhibit during Engineering Open House. The students demonstrated the lab’s 3D modeling tools used for training, education and outreach.

Knights of St. Patrick
Alyssa L. Hayes and Eliza Wright were among the nine students chosen college-wide as 2019 Knights of St. Patrick. One of the highest honors bestowed upon Illinois engineering students, Knights of St. Patrick are recognized for leadership, excellence in character, and exceptional contribuitons to the college and its students.

Dean’s List

Eligible undergraduates must have achieved a GPA for a given semester that places them in the top 20 percent of their college. The following listing is for Spring and Fall 2017.

  • Liam G. Ackerman, Bolingbrook, IL
  • Parker A. Allen, Edwardsville, IL
  • David J. Atwater, Downers Grove, IL
  • William R. Brockschmidt, Jacksonville, IL
  • Ying Cao, China
  • Linfeng Chen, Hangzhou, China
  • Michael A. Chiasson, Long Grove, IL
  • Daniel S. Chiu, Fresh Meadows, NY
  • Christian D. Clark, Dixon, IL
  • Joshua C. Devorkin, Mequon, WI
  • John M. Eastwood, Aurora, IL
  • Andrew J. Fink, Libertyville, IL
  • Luke M. Gasparich, Elmhurst, IL
  • Andreas M. Giakas, Rockford, IL
  • Ethan A. Graven, Arlington Heights, IL
  • Kyle R. Hamaker, McHenry, IL
  • Justin B. Hearne, Mokena, IL
  • Andrew C. Herschberg, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA
  • Heyuan Huang, Beijing, People’s Republic, China
  • Andrew J.H. Ingram, Sidney, IL
  • Dylan Irlbeck, Lake Zurich, IL
  • Matthew E. Kabelitz, Northbrook, IL
  • August S. Kasten, Champaign, IL
  • Nathan M. Kennedy, Crystal Lake, IL
  • Tyler R. Kennelly, Oswego, IL
  • Louis W. Kissinger, Oak Park, IL
  • Alec T. Kleczkowski of Chicago Ridge, IL
  • Matthew J. Kozak, Orland Park, IL
  • Jazz D. Kroeger of Washington, IL
  • Xinyao Liang of Beijing, People’s Republic of China
  • Kelsey E. Luo of Woodridge, IL
  • Michelle L. McCord, Canton, GA
  • Jeremy J.H. Mettler of Sioux Falls, SD
  • Angelo J. Minetti, New Lenox, IL
  • Beau K. Minnick of Princeton, IL
  • Alexander J. Morain of Arlington Heights, IL
  • Cody D. Moynihan of Milstadt, IL
  • Dario G. Panici of New Lenox, IL
  • Gyutae Park of Pusan, South Korea
  • Dhruval K. Patel of Hanover Park, IL
  • Connor A. Pigg of Mount Vernon, IL
  • Dean R. Price of Winter Park, FL
  • Ryan J. Pullara, Minooka, IL
  • Michael S. Rivkin of Wilmette, IL
  • Grant M. Schumock of Geneva, IL
  • Andrew J. Shone of Saint Charles, IL
  • Muzammil A. Siddiqui of Darien, IL
  • Erik R. Smith, Oak Park, IL
  • John B. Smith III of Saint Charles, IL
  • James M. Stearns of Elgin, IL
  • Stuti R. Surani of Vadodara, India
  • Phillip J. Tanton of Kailua, HI
  • Shyam M. Upadhyay, Bloomingdale, IL
  • Matthew A. Weiss of Venon Hills, IL
  • Eliza D. Wright of Naperville, IL
  • Nanyu Zhao of Hangzhou, People’s Republic of China





NPRE students excel at ANS Student Conference

Students in Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering once again did very well in competitions at the 2019 American Nuclear Society Student Conference.

Since 2016, the Illinois ANS Student Chapter has brought a large contingent of members to the conferences, and has come away with many honors. The students’ ability to travel to the conferences and present posters of their research is supported in part through the NPRE unrestricted fund. In this way, NPRE alumni and donors are making a huge impact in giving students a high-quality educational experience.

Listed are the awards NPRE students gained during the 2019 national conference, held at Virginia Commonwealth University April 4-6.

Best Undergraduate Presentation in Advanced Reactors
Adewale A. Adeyinka, Tyler R. Kennelly, Kelsey E. Luo
Low-Cost Micro-Reactor for Developing Energy Markets

Best Graduate Presentation in Fusion Energy & Plasma
Jeremy J.H. Mettler
Dry Etching of Medical Grade Titanium

Outstanding Abstract Submission
Dario G. Panici
Molecules in Extreme Conditions

Best Undergraduate Presentation in Fusion Energy & Plasma
Alyssa L. Hayes, Jack T. Stahl, Austin J. Schmidt
Leveraging an Ionized Gas to Mitigate Ablation

Best Presentation in Nuclear Criticality Safety
Dean R. Price
On the Effect of BWR 3D Depletion Calculations on Cask Criticality and its Uncertainty





EUV optimization project wins Hang Design Award

A team whose project aimed to reduce tin particle contamination in semi-conductor processing was named the winner of the 2019 Daniel F. Hang Outstanding Senior Design Award.

First Place

Josh Devorkin, Cody Moynihan, Kelly Munkhtuya and Phong Pham, all seniors in Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering in The Grainger College of Engineering, worked on the project in cooperation with ASML, a leader in the extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography industry, producing systems for the world’s leading chipmakers. EUV lithography is a crucial step to make the next-generation chips, allowing the bi-annual target of doubling the number of transistors on an integrated circuit to be met.

Since the early 2000s, the switch from xenon to tin has led to a more efficient EUV production. However, it comes with the cost of depositing tin all over the chamber. In order to reduce the contamination of critical surfaces by tin particles, tin must not migrate into the scanner.

In their project, Hydrogen Plasma for Particle Elimination (HyPPE), the winning team discussed the application and prototype design of a hydrogen plasma for particle elimination to avoid the migration of tin particles through the intermediate focus.

Second Place (Honorable Mention)

The competition’s runner-up was the project, Fluidized Bed Heat Exchanging System for Molten Salt Reactor Designs, presented by Adolfo Baca, Ryan Pullara and Jacob Tellez.

Molten salt reactor designs have been around since the beginning of the nuclear energy age, and propose advantages including higher efficiencies, inherent safety, and online refueling. But the designs require heat exchangers capable of handling the harsh corrosive and thermal environments of the molten salt.

The team proposed a fluidized bed heat exchanger (FBHX) that could significantly enhance heat transfer between the molten salt and a working fluid. Theoretically, the exchanger could remove 300 megawatts thermal power. The team’s project compared two FBHX designs along with heat exchanger designs currently used in industry.

Third Place

Taking Third Place in the competition was the project, Low-Cost Microreactor for Developing Energy Markets, presented by Adewale Adeyinka, Tyler Kennelly and Kelsey Luo.

The team’s goal was to design a proof of concept microreactor compatible for the purpose of serving smaller energy demands of developing energy markets, U.S. Department of Energy laboratories, the military, and microgrids. The scope of the project included choosing a spectrum, fuel, core geometry, and thermodynamic cycles able to achieve 1-5 megawatts electric of power output with a focus on passive safety elements. Economic and probabilistic risk assessments were also taken into account to analyze feasibility for commercial deployment.

The project also won the Best Undergraduate Presentation in Advanced Reactors at the American Nuclear Society Student Conference held in April at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Other senior design projects

  • Tin Abatement Plasma (SnAP), by Jack Stahl, Alyssa Hayes, Nathan Kennedy and Austin Schmidt. This project was awarded Best Undergraduate Presentation in Fusion Energy & Plasma at the ANS Student Conference.
  • Thermal Desalination Using Reactor Steam, by Alex Bohm, Will Brockschmidt and Maxx Villotti.
  • Deep Borehole Disposal of Raffinate Waste, by Kerrick Klancnik, Heyuan Huang and Demetrio Velazco.
  • Fast Inherently-Safe Hybrid Propulsion and Power Plant (FISHP3), by Louis Kissinger, Adam Pichman and Brad Ellis.
  • Liquid Plutonium Reactor, by Nicole Ditmars, Chris Bitters and Mitchell Whalen.