Mental Health Counseling for Students – The College of Engineering

The threat of a deadly virus, virtual classes, isolation. In these trying times, it’s especially difficult to be a college student.

Which is why the University of Utah College of Engineering has employed an in-house mental health counselor to help you navigate through what is sure to be a challenging school year.

Jiabao Gao, LMHC, LPC, CMHC, (pictured, right) is a highly trained counselor and therapist who has worked at Tsinghua University in Beijing, the Philadelphia School of Psychoanalysis, Aspire Health Alliance, and the University of Pennsylvania. He has a Master of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Science in Counseling.

Gao now provides services including brief individual and couple counseling, support group/group therapy, drop-in consultation, workshop/outreach, and assistance with referrals. He can meet with students who are suffering from a variety of issues such as anxiety, depression, academic concerns, self-esteem, social anxiety, and loneliness.



The National Academy of Inventors has released a new video about the legacy of Gerald Stringfellow, University of Utah Distinguished Professor of both electrical and computer engineering and materials science and engineering.

The new video, “From Campus to Commerce,” profiles Stringfellow’s contributions to the development of light-emitting diodes, a technology that would benefit everything that uses LEDs from traffic lights to computer monitors.

Stringfellow developed a process called organometallic vapor-phase epitaxy for the growth of new semiconductor alloys in which aluminum, gallium, indium and phosphorous are deposited on a substrate to create red, orange, yellow and green LED crystals. This led to better handheld calculators that used red LEDs for the display. Stringfellow took his research to the University of Utah where he was hired as a professor in 1980. He made major conceptual advances in the field and would later publish a book on the process that has now become the bible for the science of growing LED crystals.


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.

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).”

Click here for full story.

U Engineering to Work with Versatile Test Reactor

Engineers from the University of Utah’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering are working with a large team of researchers to prepare experiments for the U.S. Department of Energy’s upcoming Versatile Test Reactor to test various molten salt reactor technologies.

These experiments are part of just one research project that will take advantage of the VTR, which is designed to test fuels, materials and sensors for power reactors. While the VTR is going through a federal approval process and has not yet been built, projects such as the one the U’s MSE department is working on are already underway.

The Idaho National Laboratory has published a new story about what the U’s experiment will be about, which involves the MSE chair, Michael Simpson, and involves irradiating molten salt to see how it would change.

Click here to read the INL story.

MET-E Alum, Dr. Kumar, joins Univ. of New Mexico staff

Dr. Pankaj Kumar, 2016 PhD from metallurgical engineering, has joined the Mechanical Engineering Department, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in July 2020. Pankaj obtained his MS in Materials Engineering from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India. With a dream to make a career into academia, he moved to the USA in 2013.

He graduated with PhD from Dr. Ravi Chandran’s group in 2016. He then joined Dr. Mano Misra’s group for his postdoctoral research. He explored the physical, mechanical, and electrochemical behavior of additive manufactured materials during his two years stint as a postdoc. He then became a Research Assistant Professor in Chemical and Materials Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno, and continued exploring research in the Additive Manufacturing areas. He will be teaching classes in Mechanical Engineering and building his research group at University of New Mexico, staring in Fall 2020.

Dr. Bedrov and SMRC discover new liquid phase

Research activities in the MRSEC Soft Materials Research Center (SMRC) that includes molecular simulation group of Prof. Bedrov have discovered an elusive phase of matter, first proposed more than 100 years ago and sought after ever since. The “ferroelectric nematic” phase of liquid crystal has been described in recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS 2020 117, 14021-14031; The discovery opens a door to a new universe of materials.

Nematic liquid crystals have been a hot topic in materials research since the 1970s. These materials exhibit a curious mix of fluid- and solid-like behaviors, which allow them to control light and have been extensively used in liquid crystal displays (LCDs) in many laptops, TVs and cellphones. The nematic liquid crystals like dropping a handful of pins on a table. The pins in this case are rod-shaped molecules that are “polar”—with heads that carry, say, a positive charge and tails that are negatively charged. In a traditional nematic liquid crystal, half of the pins point up and the other half point down, with the direction chosen at random. A ferroelectric nematic liquid crystal phase, however, patches or “domains” form in the sample in which the molecules all point in the same direction, either up or down, and therefore creating a material with polar ordering.

Debye and Born first suggested in the 1910s that, if you designed a liquid crystal correctly, its molecules could spontaneously fall into a polar ordered state. In the decades since, however, scientists struggled to find a liquid crystal phase that behaved in the same way. That is, until MRSEC researchers began examining RM734, an organic molecule created by a group of British scientists several years ago. That same British group, plus a second team of Slovenian scientists, reported that RM734 exhibited a conventional nematic liquid crystal phase at higher temperatures. At lower temperatures, another unusual phase appeared. When the MRSEC team tried to observe that strange phase under the microscope they noticed something new. Under a weak electric field, this phase of RM734 was 100 to 1,000 times more responsive to electric fields than the usual nematic liquid crystals and the molecules are nearly all pointing in the same direction.

However, experimentally it is hard to zoom down to molecular scale and understand why and how these RM734 molecules were achieving such collective behavior. This is where atomistic molecular dynamics simulations conducted by Dengpan Dong and Xiaoyu Wei from Prof. Bedrov group allowed to gain atomic scale understanding. First, the simulations were able to confirm that aligning all RM734 molecules in the same direction is energetically more favorable than to have conventional random alignment of molecular dipoles. Second, detail analysis of structural and orientational correlations obtained from simulations identified key groups and intermolecular interactions that stabilize the ferroelectric nematic phase. Using these tools Bedrov’s group currently explores other chemical structures that can lead to a similar behavior.

Discovery of this new liquid crystal material starts a new chapter in condensed-matter physics and could open up a wealth of technological innovations—from new types of display screens to reimagined computer memory. Within couple days of publication, the manuscript got a world-wide attention and was picked up by more than 25 news outlets around the world.

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 *