It is a great honor for me to step into the role of Chair of the Department of Metallurgical Engineering this year. It was only 5 years ago that I first came to University of Utah and settled into my office in the Browning Bldg. As I recall, it was actually several weeks before I even had an office to occupy! Whether due to Prof. Misra not having keys to any of the offices or the main office going through a major renovation, it took a while before I had a place to sit.
Before joining the faculty of the metallurgical engineering department in the summer of 2013, I had enjoyed a career at Argonne National Laboratory and Idaho National Laboratory that introduced me to the fascinating field of nuclear energy and nulear waste and allowed me to travel the world to meet and collaborate with researchers from India, South Korea, China, Japan, England, and all over the European Union. It was a good life! But I had a yearning for academia that could not be suppressed. I am so grateful to the metallurgical engineering faculty for giving me the opportunity to transition into academia, and now I am grateful to the faculty and College of Mines and Earth Sciences for giving me the opportunity to lead the department into the next phase of its development. What exactly is that going to look like? Time will tell, of course. But I can layout my vision and goals and humbly ask the faculty, students, and staff to help make it a reality. In our recent history, our research strength has been undeniable. We have consistently been one of the top departments in the university as measured by research funding per faculty each year ($400-$600K/faculty). The university was recently selected for a Energy Frontiers Research Center led by Dean Butt and supported by Prof. Miller and Prof. Smith. Idaho National Laboratory selected a team this year led by myself (including University of Michigan and Virginia Commonwealth University) to develop a molten salt chemistry experiment for their planned Versatile Test Reactor. In previous years, we have had major projects funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's ARPA-E and NEUP programs. We have also received grants from NSF, DOD, and NASA. Several of the major DOE labs have funded our research through annual subcontracts, including Los Alamos National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Y-12, and Lawrence Livermore Noational Laboratory. A few years ago we received an amazing, generous donation from Roger and Dawn Crus to establish the Roger & Drawn Crus Renewable Energy Center. The center trains a handful of undergraduate students each year in laboratory research methods that are applied to developing technologies that benefit our society. Specifically, students in the Crus Center are developing technologies in the areas of clean energy, health, and water purification. But I want to create a new focus on our students--including both undergraduates and graduate students. Just this year we are rolling out a new undergraduate curriculum that increases flexibility for the students and gives them the opportunity to use technical electives to satisfy the requirements for an emphasis. The emphasis options are biomedical devices and sensors, chemical processing, energy conversion and storage, mineral processing, nuclear materials, and physical metallurgy. Students meeting the requirements for an emphasis will have that indicated on their diploma. But this is just the start of our journey to improving the student experience. We are working hard to improve our recruiting and visibility amongst high school students and undecided engineering students at the U. We are making plans to improve our underaduate teaching labs. And we are going to take a long hard look at our culture of inclusion, collegiality, and fairness. I want to elevate the quality of the student experience in our department by providing clear expectations (in both directions), fair and equal treatment, and careful supervision/mentoring. I want to make a commitment to every student that enters our program that we will see you through to your degree goal if the expected level of dedication and hard work is committed by the student. I acknowledge that we have several challenges to overcome. It will take time. But I am here to listen, learn, act, and appreciate all of those around me in this great department.
All the best,