Ebrahiminia awarded second place at the Lithium Ion Batteries Symposium

The 236th Electrochemical Society meeting was held in Atlanta during the week of October 13-17, 2019. Mahsa Ebrahiminia, an MSE Ph.D. student from Dr. Dmitry Bedrov group, presented her latest work on transport and mechanical properties of model solid electrolyte interphases (SEI) that she studied using atomistic molecular dynamics simulations and was awarded the second place at the Lithium Ion Batteries Symposium.

SEI is one of the key components in the Li-ion batteries that, on the one hand, protects electrolytes from electrochemical decomposition and suppresses the growth of Li dendrites, but on the other hand, creates additional resistance for Li-ion transport between electrodes. Mahsa’s simulations provide a molecular scale insight into mechanisms of Li-ion transport and structure-property relationships that hard to obtain from experiments but are badly needed in order to design new materials for next generation of batteries.

Congratulations Mahsa!

Liu, Sparks receive Quantum Computing Grant

The National Science Foundation has awarded $1,635,591 to scientists from the University of Utah and a collaborator from University of California, Los Angeles, to research one of the biggest hurdles to quantum computing—the quantum logic units, or “qubits,” that carry information. The award is one of 19 Quantum Idea Incubator grants totaling $32 million funded this year as part of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Quantum Leap, one of NSF’s “10 Big Ideas” that represent bold, long-term research ideas at the cutting-edge of science and engineering.

The U-led project, “Quantum Devices with Majorana Fermions in High-Quality Three-Dimensional Topological Insulator Heterostructures,” was funded through an initiative called the Quantum Idea Incubator for Transformational Advances in Quantum Systems (QII – TAQS). QII – TAQS supports interdisciplinary teams that will explore innovative, transformative ideas for quantum science and engineering.


Sara J. Wilson recognized for contributions to department and university

SALT LAKE CITY — Sara J. Wilson, Administrative Manager for the Department of Materials Science & Engineering, was recognized for her excellence in contributions to the department and university with a 2019 Academic and Student Affairs District Staff Excellence Award. She received this award in a ceremony held on Wednesday, August 21st at the Thomas S. Monson Center.

Sara has served as the Administrative Manager for the Department of Metallurgical Engineering since 2014 and has taken the role of Administrative Manager over the Materials Science & Engineering graduate program effective this July. Sara has been an invaluable member of the departments, working extremely well with students, faculty, and staff.

Prof. Michael Simpson, former metallurgy chair and current MSE chair, praised Sara at the ceremony for her dedication to the department and ability to effectively manage it. Sara will play an instrumental role as we work tirelessly to merge the former metallurgical engineering department in with MSE.

Metallurgy Ph.D. Now Makes Medical Radioisotopes

During his Ph.D. studies in the Department of Metallurgical Engineering at the University of Utah, Dr. Milan Stika studied molten salt electrochemistry under Prof. Michael Simpson. They worked on methods for measuring concentrations of actinides in molten salts used for applications such as nuclear reactors and nuclear fuel reprocessing. After a brief stint working for Flibe Energy on development of molten salt fueled nuclear reactors, Milan now works at Niowave, Inc., a company that produces radioisotopes used for medical diagnostics and cancer treatment. The company has a great team of accelerator physicists, nuclear engineers, and radiochemists supporting its mission. As a radiochemist, Milan works on projects that deal with separation of individual radioactive elements.

Niowave irradiates uranium targets to induce fission which creates a variety of useful fission products. The target is then dissolved so that fission products like molybdenum-99 can be harvested. Uranium is first pulled away from the rest of the elements using solvent extraction. It is then recycled into a new target. The elements useful for medical applications are then separated from each other using ion exchange resins and other methods.

Niowave also irradiates radium targets to produce actinium-225, a useful medical isotope along with other alpha emitters for targeted alpha therapy. Actinium is separated from radium and other products of the radium decay chain. Niowave is currently the only US private company producing actinium-225.

According to Milan, “the Department of Metallurgical Engineering was instrumental in helping me prepare for this exciting job in the nuclear sector by offering relevant coursework, networking opportunities, and advisor guidance.”

Winger wins best poster at annual IEEE PVSC Conference

CHICAGO — The Departments of Materials Science & Engineering (MSE) and Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at the University of Utah is proud to share the news that Joshua Winger (B.S./MS., ’19) won best poster at the 46th annual IEEE Photovoltaic Specialist Conference (PVSC) held June 16-21, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois.

Advised by Dr. Michael A. Scarpulla (Professor in MSE and ECE), Winger’s poster was named best poster by a panel of judges through a rigorous critique of design, technical merit, impact within the field and an oral presentation defending the research.

A student of the MSE’s B.S./M.S. program, Winger has been recognized for his contributions to the department as he was named the MSE Outstanding Graduating Senior in 2018. Additionally he was recognized as the College of Engineering Outstanding Teaching Assistant for the academic 2016-17 school year.


Dr. Sparks to speak at TEDxSalt Lake City

The University of Utah Department of Materials Science and Engineering is proud to announce that associate professor Taylor Sparks has been chosen to be a speaker at this year’s TEDxSaltLakeCity event on Sept. 21 at Kingsbury Hall on the university campus in Salt Lake City.

Sparks, whose research is focused on new materials for energy applications such as batteries, thermoelectrics, thermal barrier coatings and more, will be speaking on materials informatics, the process of using big data and machine learning to help researchers solve materials science challenges. The talk, titled “Striking a New Balance in Materials Discovery,” will dive into about how scientists can leverage information stored in materials data and compare that to how they traditionally discover new materials, which can largely be from trial-and-error.

TEDxSaltLake City describes itself as the “Wasatch Front’s leading platform for citizens to present and explore their ideas, stories, and creative solutions.” This year’s lineup will include 14 speakers and six musical acts.

Feng Liu

Liu recognized with Faculty Award

Congratulations to University of Utah electrical and computer engineering professor Cynthia Furse and materials science and engineering chair Feng Liu for receiving the Distinguished Teaching Award and the Distinguished Scholarly and Creative Research Award, respectively.

Both were recognized with the campus-wide honors during the 150th annual University of Utah Commencement as well as the College of Engineering’s convocation on May 3.

Feng Liu — Distinguished Scholarly and Creative Research Award

Since joining University of Utah in 2000, Prof. Feng Liu has developed into one of the world’s leading experts in the fields of surface science and epitaxial growth of thin films, and the theory of nanostructures, graphene and topological materials. He won the prestigious Senior Humboldt Award in 2008 citing: “His work pioneered our understanding of the atomistic mechanisms underlying epitaxial growth of thin films and semiconductor nanostructures.” In 2011, Prof. Liu was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society, based on: “His contribution to theory of nanostructures and strain-induced nanoscale Self-assembly.” “In recent years, he pioneered the fields of organic and surface-based topological materials,” said one nominator. “Prof. Liu has been running an active and well-funded research program which has become one of the largest in the College of Engineering (the group reached 20 people at one point). His research has been steadily supported by federal agencies (DOE, NSF and DOD), the State of Utah and industry. He is among the few people who has been simultaneously funded for two separate DOE-BES core programs, ‘Materials Synthesis and Processing’ and ‘Physical behavior of Materials’ (funded continuously so far for 20 years with an annual budget of $300K).”

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University of Utah materials science and engineering assistant professor (lecturer) Jeff Bates has created a new ski wax that not only has caught the eye of recreationists but also of Popular Science magazine.

The well-known science and technology magazine just named Bates’ Phantom ski wax for its 31st annual Best of What’s New award in the recreation category. The magazine listed the 100 greatest technological innovations for the year in categories including aerospace, gadgets, cars and security devices.

The Phantom wax, developed by Bates last year for Salt Lake City-based ski company, DPS Skis, involves a special formulation of polymers that can be applied to skis only once, eliminating the need for additional applications like regular ski wax.

To read more click here.


University of Utah materials science and engineering professor Shelley Minteer was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), it was announced Nov. 28. Election as a Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.

She is one of two U professors to receive the honor this year. The association also named chemistry professor Glenn Prestwich. Both are among 416 newly-elected Fellows.

Minteer was elected for “fundamental and applied contributions to electrochemistry, including electrocatalytic cascades and natural and artificial metabolons for biofuel cells.”

Minteer’s career has focused on using nature as an inspiration and solution to chemistry problems. Her work has resulted in 17 issued patents and over 300 peer-reviewed publications in using biology as inspiration for biosensing, energy storage, energy conversion, and electrosynthesis.

To read more click here.

Corning Executive, U Engineering Graduate Passes

David A. Duke, a University of Utah College of Engineering graduate, former chief technology officer with Corning Inc. and an inductee in the National Academy of Engineering, passed away Monday, Oct. 9, of natural causes. He was 81.

Duke graduated with a bachelor’s in geology and geophysics in 1957, and a master’s and doctorate in geological engineering in 1959 and 1962, respectively, and was a fierce supporter of the U’s College of Engineering throughout his career. He was a member of the College’s Engineering National Advisory Council for 13 years and was a generous benefactor, providing financial support for the construction of the Warnock Engineering Building as well as for the David A. and Hanne J. Duke Scholarship in Materials Science and Engineering.

“David Duke was an engineering giant whose inventions and leadership had a huge impact on people’s quality of life in areas ranging from dinnerware to optical communications and air quality,” said Richard B. Brown, dean of the U’s College of Engineering. “He was recognized as a global technology leader, and honored with the highest awards given in the engineering profession. I appreciate his remarkable vision, judgement and support as a member of my National Advisory Council.”

Duke was born and raised in Salt Lake City and attended East High School before enrolling at the University of Utah in 1953. Upon graduation, he started working for Corning as a research scientist, a company he would stay with for 34 years. During that time, he was awarded 10 patents, most for Corelle dinnerware. During his tenure with the company, he attended Harvard Business School’s Professional Management Development program and then was put in charge of several of Corning’s businesses, including those involving science products, Radomes, catalytic converter substrates, and telecommunications/optical waveguides. In 1988, he was elected vice chairman and chief technical officer of Corning and was a member of its board of directors. He retired from the company in 1996 and was living in Park City with his wife, Hanne.

He accepted the National Medal of Technology from President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore on behalf of Corning, and he later received the Earle B. Barnes Award in Chemical Research Management by the American Chemical Society. He was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in 1992.

During his career, he served tirelessly for others, mentoring colleagues at work, counseling families through his work with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and encouraging youth to pursue their professional goals. Away from work, Duke served as an LDS branch president and bishop in Elmira, N.Y., and was president of the South Africa, Durban LDS Mission from 1998 to 2001.

Duke is survived by his wife of 62 years, Hanne; their four children, Katherine (Robert) Shumway, Michael, Deborah (Gregg) Winn and John (Cessily) Duke; 20 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A public viewing will be held Friday, Oct. 13 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the LDS Olympus Stake Center, 2675 E. 4430 South, Salt Lake City. A funeral service is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 14 at 10 a.m. at the LDS Park City Stake Center, 2300 Monitor Dr., Park City. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Perpetual Education Fund of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at http://give.lds.org/pef or to the David & Hanne Duke Scholarship Fund at the University of Utah College of Engineering at https://umarket.utah.edu/ugive/level4.php?catid=82.