Spring 2023 Message from the Chair

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

Dear colleagues, alumni, supporters and friends,  

I always look forward to the opportunity to reflect on some of the incredible achievements of our department faculty, staff, students and alumni. They continue to demonstrate their dedication to excellence and unwavering commitment to advancing knowledge and positively impacting society.  

First, I am proud to announce that Jim Baciak, Ph.D., and his team have been awarded a $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. Dr. Baciak will lead a 16-university team of 31 scientists and engineers developing new nuclear forensic techniques and training future specialists to replace an aging workforce.  

Yong Yang, Ph.D., garnered recognition from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, receiving a grant to help optimize molten salt reactor (MSR) design. MSRs present several technological challenges, but by utilizing advanced manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing, Dr. Yang’s research team aims to fill the current knowledge gap in evaluating the materials used in MSRs and how they are fabricated.  

Funded by the Department of Defense Deployed Warfighter Protection program, a mosquito repellent device designed by Christopher Batich, Ph.D., and Nagarajan Rajagopal, a Ph.D. candidate, was tested successfully in a four-week semi-field study at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Gainesville, FL. The device, developed for the U.S. military, provides protection from mosquitos for an extended period and requires no heat, electricity or skin contact.  

Josephine Allen, Ph.D., received a National Institutes of Health award to better understand the native behaviors of cells in the human body. Dr. Allen seeks to develop a DNA-based hydrogel platform that recreates the complex network of molecules and proteins that provide structure and support for cells in the human body. Her research is a testament to her innovative work in biomaterials and has the potential to revolutionize material science’s applications in biotechnology and healthcare.  

Shape memory alloys (SMAs) are a unique class of metals that can recover their original shape after deformation. With his recent National Science Foundation award, Honggyu Kim, Ph.D., will use cutting-edge digital image processing tools to better determine how nano-sized precipitates affect shape memory performance. SMAs are used in various commercial and industrial technologies such as biomedical devices, aerospace vehicles, nuclear reactors, and even wearable smart technology.  

We were especially honored to welcome back Erin Jackson, an Olympic Winter gold medalist and proud alumna, as our esteemed Spring 2023 Commencement Speaker. As the first Black woman to win gold at the Winter Olympic Games, Ms. Jackson’s achievements as an athlete and her continued dedication to excellence continue to inspire us all, and her words of wisdom about taking small steps to achieve your greatest dreams moved us all to embark on our own journeys of success.  

As always, I am incredibly proud of the remarkable achievements of everyone in our department. Their passion, dedication, and relentless pursuit of knowledge continue to elevate our institution’s reputation as a leader in both research and innovation.  

As we look toward the future, I am confident that our academic community will continue to thrive, pushing the boundaries of knowledge and making a meaningful impact on our society and beyond. Congratulations to our accomplished faculty, students and alumni on their well-deserved accolades, and I extend my heartfelt appreciation to all members of our academic community for their continued support. 

Please connect with us on our social media channels to keep up with all the department’s news, stories and events! 

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