Tiberiu Stan may be from West coast, but he could see himself making East Tennessee home this August as part of the inaugural class of the UT/ORNL Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education (CIRE).
“I am very impressed with the campus,” he said. “I could get used to it and I have been around the laboratory environment for so long.”
Stan, a senior in physics at University of California-Santa Barbara, has worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico the past five summers. He is one of 43 prospective students who was on campus this week to interview for CIRE.
CIRE will offer one of the country’s first interdisciplinary doctoral degrees in energy science and engineering and will train scientists to take on the world’s most challenging energy problems by working with teams of researchers making scientific breakthroughs that could become thriving business enterprises.
On Monday, the prospective students toured facilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) such as the Spallation Neutron Source and the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences which the students would have the invaluable opportunity to use as researchers. Tuesday, they met with department representatives and CIRE leaders and toured UT research laboratories.
Stan’s interest is particularly piqued by the resources that would be available to him in the area of materials sciences such as neutron accelerator and Governor’s Chair William Weber.
“He is one of the most famous scientists in the field,” said Stan. “There are a lot of unique opportunities UT provides with ORNL that I have not seen anywhere else.”
Adam Kraus, a senior in nuclear engineering at the University of Florida, agreed.
“These are top-notch facilities,” he said. “The collaboration between UT and ORNL is really impressive.”
The student candidates are equally remarkable. UT and ORNL recruited for the inaugural class at some of the most prestigious universities in the nation, yielding candidates from the University of Virginia, the University of Michigan, Northwestern University, the California Institute of Technology, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The Ohio State University and Purdue University, among others.
“The students’ credentials on paper were stellar,” said Lee Riedinger, director of CIRE. “But what is stunning about these students is that they know what they want to do. They want to do something interdisciplinary, and most of them want to do something in energy. This would not fit in a traditional department so it is a good thing we created CIRE at the speed of light. Second, many of them want to work with Governor’s Chairs like Brian Wirth or William Weber. These students have done their homework, and they know our best faculty.”
CIRE will add roughly 30 doctoral students per year and has an initial faculty line of 38 members. Its curriculum was developed after a task force conducted interviews with leaders of energy-related industries such as Chevron, DuPont, Siemens and Exxon Mobil to solicit insight into what they look for in the doctoral graduates they hire.
By increasing the number of doctoral students and the university’s research base, the center is instrumental in helping UT Knoxville in its mission to become a Top 25 public research institution.
The center is co-located at UT Knoxville and ORNL.