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Alumni Fellows

Jacky Rios-Torres was awarded a Eugene P. Wigner fellowship in 2016. Her fellowship research focused on the development of control schemes for optimal coordination and operation of connected and automated vehicles (CAVs). She also analyzed the impact of CAVs on fuel consumption, safety, and mobility and the challenges inherent in the transition to full automation, including interactions between CAVs and human-driven vehicles. Her research has shown that fuel economy can be improved by 13–40% with CAV adoption. Jacky’s mentors have included Xin Sun, Energy and Transportation Science Division director; Robert Wagner, National Transportation Research Center director; and Paul Leiby, who leads the Energy Economic Analysis Team in the Energy and Environmental Sciences Directorate.

Being a Wigner Fellow has allowed Jacky to grow her professional network, develop cross-disciplinary research collaborations, and continue on the path of becoming a thought leader in her research area. She is now exploring ways to leverage ORNL capabilities in machine learning and high-performance computing to optimize CAV interactions with other traffic to achieve more efficient and safe mobility systems. Jacky earned her PhD in automotive engineering at Clemson University.

Katie Schuman was awarded a Liane B. Russell fellowship in 2015. In research focused on algorithms, programming, and usability of neuromorphic computing, Katie developed the Evolutionary Optimization for Neuromorphic Systems software framework and a training algorithm for building programs for neuromorphic computers. She also wrote a survey paper during her fellowship on the neuromorphic computing field. Katie’s mentor was Robert Patton, who leads ORNL’s Nature Inspired Machine Learning Team.

Her fellowship enabled Katie to help build the neuromorphic computing research area at ORNL. She also had the opportunity during her fellowship to focus on research that interested her and to build a base of work to support funding bids as she continues neuromorphic computing research at ORNL. Katie, who joined the Computing and Computational Sciences Directorate as a research scientist after her fellowship, received a DOE Early Career award in 2019. She earned a PhD in computer science from the University of Tennessee.

Josh Michener was awarded a Eugene P. Wigner fellowship in 2015. His fellowship research focused on combining microfluidics and microbiology to influence how bacteria evolve. Josh’s mentors were Brian Davison, chief scientist in the Biosciences Division, and Kenneth Tobin, who is a corporate fellow and ORNL’s Institutional Planning director.

Josh’s fellowship gave him the freedom to pursue independent lines of research and to respond as new research opportunities arose. Interacting with other fellows allowed him to build connections across disciplines and to learn about the wide array of research being conducted at ORNL. Josh, now a research staff member in the Biosciences Division, received a DOE Early Career award in 2019. He earned his PhD in bioengineering at the California Institute of Technology and held a postdoctoral appointment at Harvard University prior to his Wigner fellowship. Josh’s ongoing research interests include studying how enzymes and pathways function in different bacteria, with specific application to engineering bacteria for lignin valorization and enzyme discovery in nonmodel bacteria.

Travis Williams was awarded a Eugene P. Wigner fellowship in 2013. His research focused on performing neutron scattering research on magnetic materials. He investigated the permanent ferromagnet MnBi, which is of interest as a less costly replacement for rare-earth permanent magnets for room-temperature applications. Travis was able to show how atomic-scale interactions contribute to the magnet’s strength. Mark Lumsden, who leads ORNL’s Spectroscopy Group, was Travis’s mentor.

Travis counts among his fellowship’s many benefits the opportunity to work on cross-disciplinary projects and the ability to pursue collaborations and explore novel research techniques. His current research as a staff scientist with the Neutron Sciences Directorate focuses on using neutron scattering and other experimental techniques to understand magnetism in 4f and 5f systems. Travis received a PhD in physics from McMaster University.

Kurt Terrani was awarded an Alvin M. Weinberg fellowship in 2010. His fellowship research addressed fundamental aspects of microencapsulated nuclear fuel fabrication and behavior. His mentor was Steven Zinkle, who is a Governor’s Chair in ORNL’s Fusion Energy Division.

The fellowship allowed Kurt to leverage capabilities across the laboratory including the one-of-a-kind nuclear reactor and hot-cell infrastructure to establish himself as the leading international expert in nuclear fuels with a focus on accident behavior and tolerance. Kurt now serves as ORNL’s Transformational Challenge Reactor technical director. He received a Popular Mechanics Breakthrough award in 2017 and a Materials Performance Corrosion Innovation of the Year award in 2019, along with his scientist and industry partners, for the first successful insertion of nonzirconium nuclear fuel cladding into a commercial nuclear power plant in four decades. Kurt has mentored multiple graduate students at ORNL. He earned his PhD in nuclear engineering at University of California–Berkeley.