Since arriving at NPRE in 2018 as an assistant professor, Angela Di Fulvio has helped expand the department's profile when it comes to nuclear nonproliferation, radiation protection and safety, and neutron detection and imaging. She has won awards at the college level and has been involved in major policy work at the national level. As she starts this new stage of her career as an associate professor, Di Fulvio was asked to talk about her past, present and future in NPRE.
How does it feel to take the next step in your career?
It feels like a big achievement has been accomplished. I’m happy to have done this here, at Illinois, and I’m grateful for the support of the department and the College in the process.
Also, I’m very happy to be able to mentor (PhD) students; one graduated in December and two of them are expected to graduate this year. I’m proud of them. Student mentoring is incredibly rewarding, and I find it to be one of the most enjoyable aspects of my academic career, alongside conducting research and teaching.
When you look back on your time here, what is your favorite memory?
We were able to set up a laboratory from the ground up, which was a major accomplishment. The laboratory is located off-campus, on Curtis Road, and it allows us to use a powerful neutron source at any time, for as long as we need. This enables us to characterize different radiation detectors for non-proliferation and safeguards and many other applications. Our facility is perfect for our needs because it is not surrounded by other buildings.
This means that we do not pose any radiation threat and we have a very clean monoenergetic neutron beam. We use it for both research and classes. When I think about the effort that went into building it, and I look at the photos during construction, I am both happy and amazed by what we did.
How would you say your research has evolved over the years?
It’s been great to collaborate with colleagues both within the department and across the campus. While keeping a strong focus on nuclear measurements for nonproliferation and safeguards, we were able to apply our expertise to several impactful and multidisciplinary projects, from the robotic quantification of in-soil carbon to reactor monitoring, within the framework of the Illinois microreactor project.
What keeps you here at Illinois? What has made you want to stay here?
The environment of this department and campus is unique as it provides many opportunities for collaboration. The network I've established has been a tremendous source of inspiration, and I am eager to further cultivate and expand it.
What are the biggest projects that you’re working on right now?
Right now, we're bringing in a powerful neutron source to our campus that has a high flux comparable to a reactor port. This source will enable us to conduct research for both medical and industrial purposes, such as neutron activation and imaging. In addition, we have several other projects underway related to safeguards and non-proliferation, some of them within the framework of the prestigious Nuclear Science and Security Consortium, as well as applying radiological methods to analyze carbon in soil for carbon capture.
What are your goals in terms of moving the radiological part of the department forward?
I hope to expand our work on sensors and instrumentation to improve reactor monitoring, an emerging area very important for new fuel cycles, which are characterized by challenging harsh environments in which traditional detectors and systems do not operate.