Two MSE Students Receive Prestigious NSF Graduate Fellowships

Ashlea Patterson (MSE, B.S. ’19) and Dani Beatty (MSE, B.S./M.S. ’20) received NSF GRFP fellowships to assist in their continued graduate study in materials science.

The Department of Materials Science & Engineering is proud to announce that MSE graduates Danielle Beatty (MSE, B.S./M.S., ’20) and Ashlea Patterson (MSE, B.S., ’19) both received fellowships from the National Science Fund’s (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) to assist their continuance of graduate study and research in the field of materials science. With these fellowships Beatty will pursue her Ph.D. at the University of Colorado in Boulder and Patterson at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB).

The NSF GRFP is the country’s oldest fellowship program that directly supports graduate students in various STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. Since 1952, NSF has funded over 50,000 Graduate Research Fellowships out of more than 500,000 applicants.  Currently, 42 Fellows have gone on to become Nobel laureates, and more than 450 have become members of the National Academy of Sciences.  In addition, the Graduate Research Fellowship Program has a high rate of doctorate degree completion, with more than 70 percent of students completing their doctorates within 11 years.



Two MSE Students Receive Prestigious DOE Graduate Fellowships

The Department of Materials Science & Engineering is proud to announce that two of its graduate students, Jarom Chamberlain and Matt Newton, have been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to receive prestigious three year Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) fellowships in the amount of $161,000 each. Both students are in Prof. Michael Simpson’s group, working towards graduate degrees in metallurgical engineering. They both earned B.S. degrees in metallurgical engineering from the University of Utah.

Only 34 NEUP graduate fellowships were awarded this year for the entire country, so it is a remarkable testament of the quality of our students, department, and research that two awards were made to students at the University of Utah. Jarom and Matt will continue their work studying molten salt based processes in support of advanced nuclear energy in Prof. Simpson’s lab.

Since 2009, DOE has awarded close to 800 scholarships and fellowships totaling approximately $44 million to students pursuing nuclear energy-related degrees. Ninety-three percent of students who have completed nuclear energy-related fellowships have either continued to advance their education in nuclear energy or have obtained careers at DOE’s national laboratories, other government agencies, academic institutions, or private companies. Nine former fellowship winners are now university professors engaged in nuclear energy-related research, and one was competitively awarded an Office of Nuclear Energy research and development award in FY 2019.

Find additional information about DOE’s nuclear energy scholarships and fellowships awarded at:



COVID-19, MSE and U …


For updated information about how the COVID-19 pandemic is affected The University of Utah it is highly recommended to check the University’s daily blog about the situation. Updates include community health updates, closures, recommendations and more. Please visit the blog at

Materials Science & Engineering Offices are CLOSED, staff working remotely

It is with an abundance of caution and with counsel from the College of Engineering, College of Mines & Earth Sciences and the university that the Materials Science & Engineering is closing their offices (412 WBB and 304 CME) as the staff work remotely for the foreseeable future. The MSE staff will be available via email during the hours of 8am-12pm, 1-5pm, Monday through Friday — with the exception of the MSE advisors who will be available for appointments via Cranium Cafe (see contact information below).

Contact information for the MSE staff is as follows —

Sara J. Wilson —

Angela Nelson —

Brenda Wicks —

Kay Argyle —

Joshua Hansen —

Dave Cohrs  —

Kimberly Watts —

Thank you for your patience and understanding.

MSE/MET-E Undergraduate Advising — Open Chat, Phone or Email with Brenda Wicks

Given the concerns with COVID-19, Academic Advisors will follow the public health guidelines. Instead of in-person advising appointments, please call Brenda Wicks’ office phone number at your appointment time so that you can have a phone meeting with her. If you have a laptop or PC and internet access, please have it available at the time of your appointment. My office number is 801-581-6864.

To make a phone appointment with Brenda, please follow the link, click the Materials Science and Engineering option, and select an appointment day and time.

Brenda will also be available through email during normal office hours, 8 am – 4 pm, Monday – Friday. Brenda’s email address:

Please keep in mind that this is new to all of us so there may be some kinks along the way. Your patience is appreciated!

MSE/MET-E Graduate Advising — Open Chat, Phone or Email with Sara Wilson

Online in my café M/W from 9am – 11am and Tue 1pm – 3pm with Sara Wilson.

To make a phone appointment with Sara, or to enter my café, please follow the link the Materials Science and Engineering option, and select an appointment day and time or “knock on door” to enter the café during times listed above.

Instead of in-person appointments, I am asking that you call my office phone number at your appointment time so that we can have a phone meeting. If you have a laptop or PC and internet access, please have it available at the time of your appointment. My office number is 801-581-4449. There is an option to have a video meeting as well if that is something you are interested in.

Sara will also be available through email during normal office hours, 8 am – 4 pm, Monday – Friday. Sara’s email address:

Please keep in mind that this is new to all of us so there may be some kinks along the way. Your patience is appreciated!

Graduate Student CR/NC Options

With the University’s decision to allow students to choose between letter or CR/NC options generates many questions. We appreciate your patience as we work through so many changes during this difficult time. Below are a couple of helpful links that should make your decision easier.

This link is related to CR/NC options
This link provides up-to[date information about any adjustments being made due to COVID-19

If you have further questions regarding your grading options please contact Sara Wilson at

University Commencement & Convocation POSTPONED

In alignment with a decision made collectively by members of the Utah System of Higher Education, and with clear guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discouraging travel and large gatherings, the University of Utah will be postponing all commencement ceremonies scheduled for the end of the Spring 2020 semester.

This includes all graduation events, college convocations, and campus-wide commencement. This has been a unique and trying semester for all of us, and this decision was made with the health and well-being of all members of our campus community and their loved ones in mind.

The University is working to determine when and how rescheduled events will take place and will provide more information as soon as possible. We know this news leads to many associated questions, and we will post answers as they become available on @theU. Please send questions to

MSE/MET-E Senior Symposium & Banquet CANCELLED

The department regrets that it will have to cancel this year’s awards banquet. Department seminars will also be cancelled for the rest of the semester. Faculty are working hard to determine how to move courses to online delivery for the rest of the year.

University Travel Cancelled Until May 1st

The University announced that all university business travel has been cancelled until, at least, May 1st, 2020. If you have booked travel with Joshua from now until May 1st or have travel that has been cancelled beyond that deadline please cancel your trip via this link.

Additionally the University is in the process of transitioning to a new travel system. All future travel beyond May 1st will be booked via this new system. Please look for more information from Joshua about the new system within the next coming couple weeks.

Returning Self-Reporting Form

The university is asking students, faculty, and staff returning from areas significantly impacted by COVID-19 to self-isolate and to implement social distancing. This includes international travel from countries with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention level two and three travel health notice as well as domestic travel within the United States.

The Returning Traveler Self-Reporting form will help those individuals inform the university of their situations and allow the university to reduce the risk of any potential spread of COVID-19. The university will not release personal information about returning students, faculty, and staff.

Returning Traveler Self-Reporting Form

Post-Travel Reimbursement Forms Now Online

With Joshua working remotely he has coordinated with the Travel Department the ability to submit copied receipts for the foreseeable future. To begin the process of your travel reimbursements please fill out this form.

Guidelines for hosting your Thesis-Dissertation Via Zoom

For students who will be defending in the coming months, thesis and dissertations defenses will be held via Zoom. Please see the guidelines here.

Undergraduate Tristan Lundgren presents at SME Conference

As an undergraduate researcher, my focus has been on identifying efficiency issues related to a critical step of the gold mining processes. The Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration hosts an annual conference with an undergraduate research poster competition for entries related to mineral processing. With the generous assistance of the Crus Scholar program, I had the opportunity to attend and present at this year’s SME Expo in Phoenix, Arizona.

Over my three days at the conference, I attended a number of technical sessions where I learned about contemporary research endeavors going on in the fields of mining and metallurgy. In addition, I got to bounce questions given to me by my classwork and research off senior engineers and administrators of huge companies like FLSmidth, Newmont, and Freeport-McMoran. During my presentation, I was approached by curious industry professionals who were genuinely interested in the work I’ve been doing, and I ultimately won second place in the student poster contest.

My experiences at the conference will stick with me as I finish my degree and transition into the field. I learned and networked more than I’ve ever had the opportunity to do before, and I’m already putting those ideas and connections to use. I’m extraordinarily grateful to the Crus Scholar program for their assistance in opening new doors to my future by sponsoring my student research and travel for this event. I look forward to continuing my work and will make a point to attend SME 2021!

University Travel Cancellation Form

This form is explicitly for the cancellation of ALL University travel outside of the state of Utah between March 10-April 30, 2020 as directed by President Ruth Watkins. Any third-party reimbursements given to travelers for cancelled trips that have been reimbursed by the University must be paid back by the traveler. This is why we advise travelers to contact the organizations first to ask about reimbursements.

If you have questions about cancellation processes, please contact Joshua at or 801-581-6863.

MSE Travel Cancellation Form
Was this travel pre-registered with the MSE Department? *
Purpose of Travel *
Please check all that the MSE DEPARTMENT booked and paid for this cancelled travel *
Please check all that YOU THE TRAVELER booked and paid for this cancelled travel *
Maximum upload size: 15.36MB
Hotel Accommodations (if PAID in full by YOU THE TRAVELER, please make sure to cancel all reservations)
Maximum upload size: 15.36MB
Conference Fee (if the Conference HAS NOT OR WILL NOT reimbursement the fee)
Maximum upload size: 15.36MB
Other Receipts (ie - printed posters, paid in full rentals, etc.)
Maximum upload size: 15.36MB
I understand that any reimbursements given by third parties that have already been reimbursement by the University must be repaid to the project/activity *

Discover the materials of the future … in 30 seconds or less

Since the dawn of history, the materials available to man have defined the very substance of society. The Stone Age gave way to the Bronze Age and eventually to the Iron and Steel Ages. We now enter the Information Age where technologists must balance a dynamic harmony between traditional approaches and transformational new tools. In this fascinating talk, Dr. Taylor Sparks will explain how he is working to reduce the trial and error of new materials discovery.

Dr. Taylor Sparks is an Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Utah. He is originally from Utah and an alumni of the department he now teaches in. He did his MS in Materials at UCSB and his PhD in Applied Physics at Harvard University and then did a postdoc in the Materials Research Laboratory at UCSB. He is currently the Director of the Materials Characterization Lab at the University of Utah and teaches classes on ceramics, materials science, characterization, and technology commercialization.

His current research centers on the discovery, synthesis, characterization, and properties of new materials for energy applications. He is a pioneer in the emerging field of materials informatics whereby big data, data mining, and machine learning are leveraged to solve challenges in materials science. When he’s not in the lab you can find him running his podcast “Materialism” or canyoneering with his 3 kids in southern Utah. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.

Learn more at

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.”