Steven J Zinkle

Steven J Zinkle

Governor’s Chair for Nuclear Materials

Steve Zinkle aims to help build a better nuclear reactor. His focus is on developing high-performance, radiation-resistant materials for advanced nuclear fission and fusion energy applications.

Zinkle is using ions and neutrons to explore the stability and thermal conductivity of certain fuels. He is also researching accident-tolerant fuel systems for reactors in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in Japan.

He holds a joint appointment in the UT Departments of Nuclear Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering.  He was appointed August 2013 from ORNL.


Physical metallurgy of structural materials; the effects of ion and neutron irradiation on the microstructure, physical properties, and mechanical properties of metals and ceramics; transmission electron microscopy; and fusion and space fission reactor materials studies.


  • PhD, Nuclear Engineering (minor in Physics), University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, 1985
  • MS, Materials Science, 1985
  • MS, Nuclear Engineering, 1982
  • BS, Nuclear Engineering, 1980

Research Interests:

  • Radiation effects in materials
  • Deformation and fracture mechanisms in structural materials
  • Fusion reactor materials
  • Fission reactor materials
  • Materials processing and performance under extreme conditions
  • Microstructure-property relationships
  • Thermal and electrical conductivity of materials
  • Transmission electron microscopy
  • Accident tolerant fuel systems
  • Nonequilibrium and additive manufacturing processes

Professional Service:

  • ASM International [nominating committee 2007; awards policy comm. member 2009–2012, vice chair
  • 2012–2014, chair 2014–2015; gold medal (2009–2013) and Campbell Memorial Lecture (2009–2011) selection comm.; ASM/TMS nuclear materials comm, 1987–present (chair 2003–2005)
  • TMS (Structural Materials Division Council 2003–2005, Energy Materials Blue Ribbon panel 2010)
  • American Nuclear Society (honors & awards comm. member 2009–present; vice chair, 2011–2013; chair, 2013–2015; Materials Science & Technology Division executive comm. member 2003–2009)
  • American Ceramic Society, Materials Research Society, American Physical Society (APS)

Journal Editor/Editorial Advisory Boards:

  • Editor, Metallurgical & Materials Transactions E: Materials for Energy Systems (July 2013–present)
  • Journal of ASTM International (associate editor, 2003–2006); Materials Science Foundations (1998-present); Fusion Science & Technology (2001-present); Current Opinion in Solid State and Materials Science (2011–2014), Journal of Nuclear Science and Technology (2012–present), Nuclear Fusion (2013–present)

Other Advisory Panels and Professional Service

  • Member, DOE Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (FESAC), 2009–present
  • Chair, DOE FESAC advisory panel on Materials Science & Technology (July 2011–February 2012); vice chair, DOE FESAC advisory panel on Strategic Planning (April–September 2014)
  • Member, DOE FESAC advisory panel on Fusion Energy Development Path (Oct. 2002-June 2003), advisory panel on 10-year R&D priorities (Oct. 2003–Nov. 2004), advisory panel on strategic planning (March–Oct. 2007); advisory panel on Magnetic Fusion Energy priorities (July 2012–Jan. 2013)
  • US representative, International Energy Agency Executive Committee for the Implementing Agreement on a Programme of Research and Development on Fusion Reactor Materials, 2003–2011 (chair, 2003–2006)
  • Co-chair, Materials under Extreme Conditions panel for the DOE-Basic Energy Sciences workshop on Basic Research Needs for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems, August 2006; crosscutting science panel member for BES workshop on Basic Research Needs for Materials Under Extreme Environments, June 2007
  • Member, US DOE Fusion Materials Sciences Steering Committee, 1999–2011 (chair, 2000–2006)
  • Task leader (reactor materials) for DOE/NASA Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter space reactor project (2003–2004)
  • Member, Advanced Fuels Cladding Initiative/Gen IV Materials Working Group, 2004–2006
  • Member, Commissariat A L’Energie Atomique (CEA) Visiting Committee on R&D for Future Nuclear Reactors, May 2005
  • Scientific advisory committee member, CEA Nuclear Energy Directorate, 2008–present
  • Member, Grand Accelerateur National d’Ions Lourds (GANIL) Scientific Council Interdisciplinary Research Evaluation committee, Universite de Caen, France (February 2006)
  • Member, Peking University (Beijing, China) Institute of Nucl. Science & Technol. Adv. Comm., 2011–present
  • External advisory board, Los Alamos National Lab MaRIE project, 2008–present
  • Member, Materials Capability Review committee for Los Alamos National Laboratory, May 2014
  • Academic advisory committee member, NC State Department of Materials Science & Engineering, 2006–present
  • Advisory board member, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Nuclear Engineering program, 2008–2010
  • Advisory board, University of Michigan Dept. of Nuclear Engineering & Radiological Sciences, 2009–present
  • Advisory board, University of Wisconsin Dept. of Engineering Physics, 2009–present
  • Advisory board, Purdue University School of Nuclear Engineering, 2012–present
  • Reviewer for numerous DOE and NSF research programs and over 25 archival journals

Mentoring of Students and Postdoctoral Researchers:

Total Postgraduate Scholars Advised: 4 as primary advisor; 7 as co-advisor

  • Primary mentor at ORNL: S. Kojima (Japan); D.P. White, Merrimack College; M.M. Li, Argonne National Laboratory; Y. Matsukawa, Tohoku University, Japan
  • Co-advisor at ORNL: W.R. Allen; P.M. Rice, IBM; A. Meldrum, University Alberta, Canada; N. Hashimoto, Hokkaido University, Japan; D.T. Hoelzer, University Florida/ORNL; A.G. Perez-Bergquist (Oak Ridge National Lab); N.A.P. Kiran Kumar (Oak Ridge National Lab)
  • Scientific/technical advisor for graduate students/ on thesis evaluation committee: L.L. Snead, RPI (PhD); T.J. Miller, Auburn University (MS); M.C. Osborne, RPI (PhD); L. Malerba, Polytechnic University, Madrid, Spain (PhD); A.T. Nelson, University Wisconsin (MS); D.A. McClintock, University Texas-Austin (PhD); Pui Wai (Leo) Ma, Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PhD)
  • Current graduate students at UT: Daniel Clark (Nuclear Engineering); James Brechtl (CIRE); coadvisor with Brian Wirth for UT CIRE student Congyi Li (CIRE)

Member of the National Academy of Engineering (Materials Engineering section, 2012)

US Dept. of Energy (DOE) Ernest Orlando Lawrence Memorial Award (Nuclear Technology, 2006)

Fellow, American Physical Society (2013), Materials Research Society (2013), The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society (TMS, 2011), American Association for the Advancement of Science (2009), American Nuclear Society (ANS, 2007), ASM International (2003), American Ceramic Society (2001)

ORNL Corporate Fellow (2004)—limited to about 30 staff among 4,800 ORNL employees

ANS Mishima Award for outstanding R&D on nuclear fuels and materials (2007) Robert W. Cahn Award (inaugural recipient, Elsevier Nuclear Materials Conference, 2010)

University Wisconsin College of Engineering Distinguished Achievement Award (2010)

IEEE Nuclear & Plasma Sciences Society Fusion Technology Award (2006)

ANS Mater. Sci. & Technology Division Outstanding Achievement Award (2005)

ANS Mater. Sci. & Technology Division Literary Award (coauthor, 1996, 2006)

American Ceramic Society Nucl. & Environ. Technology Division Best Paper Award (1994–1995, 2007)

National Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering symposium invited participant (1998)

Fusion Power Associates David J. Rose Excellence in Fusion Engineering Award (1992)

ORNL Eugene P. Wigner Fellow (1985–1987)

ORNL Awards Night Technical Achievement (R&D Accomplishment) Award (1991, 1997, 1999, 2002)

Phi Eta Sigma, Tau Beta Pi, Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Xi

University Wisconsin Sigma Xi Excellence in Graduate Research Award (1985)