Q & A: Tomasz Kozlowski discusses his promotion to full professor and his NPRE outlook

10/24/2023 Phillip Kisubika

Written by Phillip Kisubika

Q & A: Tomasz Kozlowski discusses his promotion to full professor and his NPRE outlook

Since arriving at NPRE in 2011 as an assistant professor, Tomasz Kozlowski has helped raise the department's profile when it comes to reactor design, multi-physics simulation and modeling, and reactor thermal hydraulics. As he starts this new stage of his career as a full professor, Kozlowski was asked to discuss his past, present and future in NPRE.

How does it feel to take this next step in your career?

I feel relieved…I don’t know (laughs). I don’t really think about these things. It’s a big accomplishment, but I just come to work (every day) and try to do what I love the most: research.

How has your research evolved over your time at Illinois?

The topics and the scope and difficulty of those topics has expanded. The problem is, theoretically we are free to pursue any idea that we think are the best and most interesting and valuable. But we’re limited in that we have to chase the funding, so whatever fits the funding is what gets done…The big accomplishment we did manage was (determining) the quantification of a lot of different sources of uncertainty, but we want to do a lot. I’m excited about the potential of AI in education.

When you look back, what kinds of moments or memories stand out for you in your time in NPRE?

The first PhD student I mentored (who graduated in 2015), the first publications, the first (round of) funding, the first promotion (to associate professor in 2017)…the firsts tend to stick out more than others.

Besides the tenure, what keeps you at Illinois and in this department?

What keeps me here is the good work environment. This is a very good department, with an excellent quality of people and excellent students, and there’s the ability to do work in relative peace. At Illinois, I feel at home.

What are the biggest projects you’re working on besides the microreactor?

There are two things I’d like to work on: one, back to basics in a sense. We are doing things that are way too advanced without understanding the basics. We do this in simulations and numerical methods without being able to do simpler problems that are more fundamental and hands-on. The other thing is the use of AI (artificial intelligence) in nuclear engineering. That has to be propagated and integrated somehow. I’m not sure how, but it has to be.

What do you think AI could do for nuclear engineering?

It can automate a lot of things. Also, it can work like ChatGPT and explain a lot of things in a fast, easy way. A lot of times, I draw a blank on some issue or topic. That could save me having to go through numerous books to find an answer. (Theoretically) you could have all this information together in a comprehensive way quickly. It could be a personal assistant for nuclear engineering.

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This story was published October 24, 2023.