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Alumni Fellows

Christopher Bowland was awarded a Eugene P. Wigner fellowship in 2016. His fellowship research focused on building a multifunctional composites program to develop scalable routes to integrate nanomaterials into fiber-reinforced composites for embedded sensing applications. He has also been involved at ORNL with developing sustainable, 3D-printable polymers utilizing lignin and investigating the molecular structure of those polymers in different environments using neutron scattering at the Spallation Neutron Source and High Flux Isotope Reactor. Christopher’s mentor was Amit Naskar, who leads ORNL’s Carbon and Composites Group.

Christopher’s fellowship gave him the freedom and flexibility to develop multiple areas within the composites field in which he saw research opportunities for growth. His ongoing research interests include developing routes to integrate multifunctional composites into real-world structures. Christopher patented the technology developed during his fellowship, and he is partnering with a private company to commercialize multiple multifunctional composites. Christopher received his PhD in materials science and engineering from the University of Florida.

Leah Broussard was awarded a Eugene P. Wigner Fellowship in 2016. Her research focused on developing new silicon detector technology for ultra-low noise and high resolution in detecting charged particles from free neutron beta decay. Also as a Fellow, Leah initiated a new program to search for mirror neutron oscillations using existing neutron scattering instruments at ORNL and pursued other areas of future growth for the Neutrons Group by characterizing detector effects and applying them to precision measurements in the beta decay of 45Ca and investigating the impact of the upcoming Second Target Station on fundamental physics. Leah’s mentor was David Radford, a group leader in the Physics Division and a Corporate Fellow at ORNL.

Leah’s fellowship work has helped position ORNL as a world leader in fundamental neutron physics research. She was awarded a DOE Early Career Award in 2019. Her ongoing research interests include pursuing a better understanding of some of the most challenging experimental effects that can impact high-precision measurements in fundamental neutron physics and exploring a new line of research into the use of neutron scattering instruments for neutron oscillation searches. Leah received a PhD in physics from Duke University and was a Seaborg Postdoctoral Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory prior to joining ORNL.

Stylianos Chatzidakis was awarded an Alvin M. Weinberg fellowship in 2016. His research focused on developing new options for inspecting used nuclear fuel storage containers with cosmic-ray muon tomography. Stylianos produced the first research showing that muon momentum measurements could yield inspection images that are of higher quality and obtained in less time than was previously possible, resulting in reduced inspection costs and resources. He performed the first 3D neutron residual stress mapping of a spent fuel canister at ORNL’s High Flux Isotope Reactor neutron diffraction facility and is developing the MERF (Mobile Examination and Remediation Fixture) prototype, which will perform remote and automated remediation of spent nuclear fuel containers. His mentor was Josh Jarrell.

Stylianos’ fellowship provided him with a unique opportunity to work on a high-risk/high-reward research project that has kept him motivated to move his research area forward. He also cites as key benefits the guidance of senior ORNL staff and the credibility the fellowship has lent to his work and ability to identify new projects and funding. Since becoming a fellow, Stylianos was nominated as a Technical Point of Contact for DOE’s Nuclear Engineering University Program and as a member of the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group’s Topical Peer Review Committee. His ongoing research interests include spent fuel inspection and remediation, muon tomography, aerosol transport, nuclear fuel simulations using GEANT4 and COBRA-SFS, and using advanced statistical pattern recognition and machine learning methodologies. Stylianos earned his PhD in nuclear engineering from Purdue University.

Chengyun Hua was awarded a Liane B. Russell fellowship in 2016. Her fellowship research focused on development of a predictive capability at ORNL for nanoscale thermal transport based on new ultrafast laser techniques and efficient Boltzmann transport simulations. Her research team successfully set up new ultrafast laser techniques in the Laser Spectroscopy Laboratory and provided a theoretical framework to understand nonlocal thermal transport in the nondiffusive regime. Chengyun’s mentors were Xin Sun, Energy and Transportation Science Division director; Lucas Lindsay, research scientist in the Materials Science and Technology Division; and Jamie Morris, who led the Material Theory Group during her fellowship.

Chengyun’s fellowship allowed her to conduct independent research, broaden her scientific interests, and develop her professional network. Her current research as a staff scientist with the Energy and Transportation Science Division involves applying ultrafast laser techniques to a new target: emerging quasiparticles in quantum materials. Chengyun received her PhD in mechanical engineering from the California Institute of Technology.

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.

Singanallur Venkatakrishnan was awarded a Eugene P. Wigner fellowship in 2016. His fellowship research focused on developing algorithms for neutron computed tomography (CT) systems that draw on ideas from such diverse fields as statistical signal processing, image processing, inverse problems, and machine learning. Venkat used model-based image reconstruction approaches that combine statistical models for data and low-dimensional signal models for the underlying quantity to be measured to enable high quality neutron CT scans. His mentors included Hector Santos-Villalobos, group leader in the Cyber and Applied Data Analytics Division; Philip Bingham, group leader in the Electrical and Electronics Systems Research Division, and Ken Tobin, Office of Institutional Planning director.

Venkat’s fellowship gave him a great deal of freedom to pursue novel algorithms for a variety of imaging applications. It also allowed him to connect with scientists in different divisions at ORNL, leading to fruitful collaborations. While a Fellow, Venkat became an IEEE Senior Member and an elected member of the IEEE Signal Processing Society’s Technical Committee on Computational Imaging, his core area of research. His ongoing research interests include computational imaging and inverse problems. Venkat is particularly interested in using machine learning methods to improve the capability and quality of 3D-imaging instruments being employed across domains at ORNL, including electron microscopes, x-ray micro-CT scanners, ultrasound systems, and neutron CT scanners. He received a PhD in electrical and computer engineering from Purdue University.

Joseph Lukens was awarded a Eugene P. Wigner fellowship in 2015. During his fellowship, he conducted experimental photonics research in quantum information science. In 2016, Joe and colleague Pavel Lougovski discovered a new approach to quantum computing using frequency encoding, which was published in Optica in 2017. His mentors were Warren Grice, then group leader of ORNL’s Quantum Information Science Group, and Nicholas Peters, who now leads the QIS group.

Joe’s fellowship provided him with resources and freedom to pursue the most impactful research possible, which gave his career a jump start that he believes would be hard to find anywhere else. His ongoing research interests include quantum information processing with photons, Bayesian machine learning, quantum networking, and optical communications. Joe won the Significant Event Award in 2017 for ORNL’s first quantum technology license, Technology Commercialization Awards in 2017 and 2019, and a DOE Office of Science Early Career Award in 2019. His research was featured in the Optics and Photonics News “Year in Optics” in 2019. Joe earned his PhD in electrical engineering from Purdue University.

Kelly Chipps was awarded a Liane B. Russell fellowship in 2015. Her fellowship research focused on the nuclear reactions that power stars and stellar explosions. Kelly’s fellowship work stemmed from an effort with collaborators to build the world’s most dense gas jet target for stellar reaction studies. Her fellowship project goals included improving the operation of this target system and demonstrating that it could be successfully used for indirect reaction studies. Kelly also reanalyzed existing system data for new information and developed a neutron detector for complementary indirect reaction studies. Kelly’s mentors included Michael Smith, Experimental Astrophysics Group Leader, and Cheryl Bast, a former team lead in the Biosciences Division.

Kelly’s fellowship gave her the opportunity to pursue unique lines of research, look back at existing data for new insights, and understand how the Laboratory operates. Her ongoing research interests include exploring the nuclear physics behind neutron star mergers such as the one observed by LIGO a few years ago, including  the astrophysical r-process, which is thought to produce roughly half of the elements heavier than iron. Kelly earned her PhD in applied physics from the Colorado School of Mines.

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.

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.

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.

Chad Parish was awarded an Alvin M. Weinberg fellowship in 2009. His fellowship research focused on development of analytical electron microscopy for photovoltaics. Chad’s fellowship mentor was Karren More, who serves as director for ORNL’s Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences.

Chad’s fellowship helped establish him as one of ORNL’s experts on using analytical electron microscopy to solve materials problems. His fellowship experience has allowed him to work on wide-ranging projects across different program offices and different energy-relevant fields over that last 10 years. His ongoing research interests include examining problems related to fission and fusion systems. Chad received a DOE Early Career Award in 2015, as well as the David J. Rose Award for Excellence in Fusion Engineering in 2018. He was elected to serve as secretary of the Microanalysis Society in 2018 and was reelected in 2020. He earned his PhD in materials science and engineering from North Carolina State University and was a postdoctoral fellow at Sandia National Laboratories before joining ORNL.