New Assistant Prof. Katy Huff is the 2016 winner of the American Nuclear Society’s Young Member Excellence Award.
Huff, a computational nuclear reactor physicist who joined the Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering at Illinois faculty this summer, has been cited for her outstanding contributions to advanced modeling and simulation, in particular in the fuel cycle analysis area, and her tireless leadership within ANS. The award recognizes a young member who has demonstrated overall excellence in a variety of areas, and Huff will be presented an engraved plaque at the ANS Winter Meeting in Las Vegas in November.
Huff has been active within the 11,000-member ANS organization since her graduate school days beginning in 2008 at the University of Wisconsin.
Currently, she chairs the Fuel Cycle and Waste Management (FCWM) Division. She also has served as that division’s vice-chair and secretary-treasurer, and served as secretary of the ANS Young Members Group. Huff has organized and chaired many sessions for national ANS meetings, and, while FCWM secretary/treasurer, restarted a newsletter to provide members with timely information.
“At a time when the ANS is making it easier for young members to become involved, Katy has set an example for all young members of how to do this in a way that is both faithful to her professional and intellectual interests and allows her to make a difference in the organization,” said Paul Wilson, University of Wisconsin engineering physics professor and Huff’s PhD advisor. Wilson nominated Huff for the award.
She expects to continue her ANS activities by advising the student chapter at Illinois. “Supporting the ANS students is really an important responsibility,” Huff has said.
In addition to her ANS activities, Wilson cited Huff’s academic research, and particularly her contributions to the Software Carpentry Foundation, which holds workshops teaching best practice computational skills to researchers in science, engineering, medicine and related disciplines. Huff was a leader in organizing one of the first such workshops in 2011, and had a hand in developing most of the curriculum that was taught. A founding member of the foundation’s steering committee, Huff served as the committee’s first chair.
In 2015, she and co-author, Anthony Scopatz, released their book, “Effective Computation in Physics,” which offers a long-form companion to the two-day workshop curriculum.
Her interests in applying cutting-edge computations to nuclear engineering will continue in NPRE, as she works on a U.S. Department of Energy-funded project to bring machine learning improvements to fuel cycle system analysis.
Prior to joining NPRE, Huff worked as a postdoctoral scholar and data science fellow in the Nuclear Science and Security Consortium and Berkeley Institute for Data Science at the University of California-Berkeley. Her focus has been on the scientific pursuit of a safe, emissions-free, sustainable, high-output energy source. Particularly, she is interested in the promise of a closed nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear repository performance, and investigations of safety.
In NPRE, she will concentrate on research questions across a range of challenges including nuclear fuel cycle technology strategy, energy policy, repository safety, and reactor physics. Huff’s research will involve modeling and simulating both the nuclear fuel cycle and advanced reactor designs.