Spring 2022 Message from the Chair

Michele Manuel, Ph.D.
Michele Manuel, Ph.D.

Dear colleagues, alumni, supporters and friends, 

 As another academic year closes, our annual spring newsletter is a perfect opportunity to review some of our department highlights over the past semester.  

 The most recent department news is that the MSE and the NE graduate programs continue to hold their place among the top public programs in the nation according to the 2023 U.S. News & World Report rankings, coming in at #8 and #12, respectively, among public institutions. 

 We have also been all about breaking barriers – with women and people of color displaying excellence and power both in and beyond STEM. In an era of profound change, our department is brimming with Changemakers – people who may have traditionally worked in the margins but are now creating unprecedented and seismic waves in their field. A supreme example is MSE alumna Erin Jackson, who traded her inline skates for ice skates less than six years ago. The rest, as they say, is history. In February, Jackson became the first Black woman to win an individual speedskating gold medal, taking first place in the 500-meter race in the Beijing Winter Olympics.  

 In other professional milestones, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) elected two more members of the UF MSE family to join its ranks, one of the highest professional honors in our field. This year the NAE recognized Deepika Singh, Ph.D. (MSE ‘91), and myself as engineers who have distinguished themselves in private industry and academia. It’s truly an honor that I am humbled to receive, and I can’t begin to adequately thank all of the people who helped, guided and supported me along the way. 

 MSE faculty Amanda Krause, Ph.D., and Ryan Need, Ph.D., each received an NSF CAREER Award. Dr. Need received an award for the creation of new measurement capabilities driving the fundamental understanding nanoscale ion diffusion. Breakthroughs in this area could enable the next generation of information storage and processing technology. Dr. Krause received her award for research focused on controlling grain boundaries in ceramic materials. A better understanding of the mechanisms of grain growth during the manufacturing process would lead to improved performance of ceramic components in everything from airplane engines to microprocessors. 

 The Nuclear Engineering program had a significant expansion in new research awards. Michael Tonks, Ph.D., Donald Wall, Ph.D., and Justin Watson, Ph.D., received awards totaling nearly $1.8 million from the Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) part of the U.S. Department of Energy. These awards fund research and development, scholarships, infrastructure upgrades and integrated research projects at universities and colleges nationwide.  

  Dr. Tonks and his research team are using their award to improve the alloy corrosion modeling software program known as Yellowjacket, a platform first developed by Dr. Tonks in 2018 and used in the design of molten salt reactors. Dr. Wall, University of Florida Training Reactor (UFTR) Director, received an award for infrastructure upgrades. The UFTR will acquire an upgraded, automated pneumatic sample transfer system to move samples into the reactor for irradiation and back to the laboratories. And Dr. Watson received an award to help develop a high-fidelity modeling tool that can capture some of the critical phenomena in high burnup Uranium Dioxide and accident tolerant fuels during transient conditions. 

 From the Olympic podium to the classroom to the lab, Gator engineers have once again shown their innate ability to succeed at anything they put their minds to. Thank you all for your continued generosity and support for the department’s students, faculty and staff. We clearly have had a record-breaking year but the best is still yet to come.