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UI Engineering Celebrates Nuclear Science Week with $400K Faculty Development Grant

October 22, 2015

The University of Idaho College of Engineering Nuclear Engineering program has been awarded a $434,048 faculty development grant by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). This announcement comes just in time for the annual Nuclear Science Week, Oct. 19-23, an international event that recognizes how nuclear science plays a vital role in lives around the world.

The UI College of Engineering Nuclear Engineering program is the cornerstone of the mission of University of Idaho in Idaho Falls. UI Idaho Falls administers graduate-level education and research programs addressing energy needs of the state and the nation in partnership with the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), industry and other universities.

“Nuclear energy in this country is entering a period of renaissance and it will play an ever-important role in meeting the nation’s energy security and affordability needs,” said Vivek Utgikar, College of Engineering associate dean for Research and Economic Development. “This NRC grant will help us increase our science and engineering research, development and education activities at UIIF to help meet these vital needs by strengthening and expanding our capabilities in strategically important nuclear energy areas.”

The grant is comprehensive and intended to strengthen the entire UI nuclear engineering program through supporting the research and educational activities of four faculty members specifically — Fatih Aydogan, Krishnan Raja, Raghunath Kanakala and Robert Borrelli — all under the administration of the new director of the UI nuclear engineering program, Richard Christensen.

“Each faculty member will further develop expertise and research efforts in critical areas,” Utgikar said. “Fatih Aydogan will continue work on developing new safety systems for nuclear reactors. Professors Raja and Kanakala will work to better understand the environmental degradation of nuclear structural materials and to enhance materials characterization capabilities, while Robert Borrelli’s work will focus on safeguarding nuclear fuel cycle.”

The grant recognizes the University of Idaho as a leader in the field of nuclear energy education and research — leadership that is enhanced by the state-of-the-art facilities of the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, where the UI nuclear engineering program is located, and proximity to INL.

The UI nuclear engineering program enrolls 60 part-time and full-time students annually. Aydogan plays a major role in the program education: he currently teaches five courses on reactor engineering, advanced nuclear power plants, two-phase flow, space reactor modeling, and advanced nuclear systems and modeling.

“We are hoping to increase full-time graduate student enrollment in the program, the NRC grant will help us move in the right direction,” Aydogan said. “Support from the grant will help me not only to improve the next generation nuclear safety systems but also to develop two of five courses and attend domestic and international conferences to help promote our work and our program.”

Other FY15 NRC faculty development grant recipients include Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ohio State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and University of Pittsburgh among others.

Rob Patton
College of Engineering

About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 12,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky Conference. Learn more at