Dr. Sparks’ Research Group works to better illuminate road lines

Increasing the visibility of roadway markings is an important task for engineers. The most popular approach for making roadway striping more visible has been to add glass beads to the surface of the roadway paint in order to cause some of the light from headlights to retro-reflect back to the car. However, when paint with retroreflective beads is submerged with water the index of refraction of water prevents the light from retro-reflecting and the roadway markings become nearly impossible to observe. The easiest workaround for this problem is to add retroreflective tabs to roads, but in our snowy climate the snowplows would rip tabs off the road leaving Utah with no great solutions.

Phosphorescent roadway paint featuring high-performance Eu:SrAl2O4 phosphors with the patent-pending protective polymer coating innovation from the Sparks Research Group.

The Taylor Sparks Research Group has set out to develop a potential alternative solution based on “glow in the dark” luminescent phosphors. Glow in the dark roadways have been piloted before in the Netherlands and failed spectacularly after only a few weeks due to rainwater causing the rare-earth elements to leach out of the ceramic phosphor in the paint. The innovation was led by group member Jason Nance (M.S., ’19) who performed his Master’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) while working as the state chemist for the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT).

Nance and Dr. Taylor Sparks developed a custom polymer coating for the ceramic phosphors that prevents the rare-earth ion from leaching out when submerged in water for prolonged periods. A provisional patent has been filed and a full patent application is under review. Sparks and Nance hope to commercialize this paint through their startup, JCS Labs, and will be conducting feasibility tests on public roads with UDOT this summer.

Dr. Sparks and Nance were recently interviewed by Fox13 News in Salt Lake City about their research and development, watch the interview here.

Metallurgical Engineering Senior, Jerry Howard, offered NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Congratulations to metallurgical engineering senior, Jerry Howard (MET-E, ’21), who was recently offered a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to support his planned doctoral studies at the University of Nevada at Reno. If accepted, the award will support Jerry’s stipend and tuition for three years. The total value of these awards is about $138,000. It is a highly competitive award with only about 15% of the applicants selected for awards.

Only 11 NSFGRF’s were awarded to current University of Utah students this year. Jerry is ranked at the top of his graduating metallurgical engineering class and has had a highly distinguished research record under the advising of Prof. Krista Carlson. He is currently supporting a project funded by Idaho National Laboratory and led by Prof. Carlson and Prof. Michael Simpson to develop a process for treating radioactive salts for interim storage

Dr. Huiwen Ji joins the MSE Faculty in January 2021

The Materials Science & Engineering Department at the University of Utah is pleased to announce that Dr. Huiwen Ji will join the department as an assistant professor. She is a materials chemist working on establishing structure-property links in solid-state functional materials with an unconventional perspective. Though crystalline matters are often characterized by periodic order, of particular interest to her research is how correlated disorder and competing local forces give rise to unusual phenomena that are inaccessible to perfect crystals, yet are crucial for energy storage and many other applications. She approaches these scientific questions by coupling synthesis and property measurements with advanced total scattering and spectroscopic characterizations. Her ultimate goal is to design better materials through controlling disorder and even create flexible disorders that are adaptive to external stimuli.

Dr. Ji comes from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where she was a research scientist in the Energy Storage & Distributed Resources Division. Her position was supported by the John S. Newman Fellowship funded by the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy of DOE. She was a postdoctoral associate in the MSE Department at UC Berkeley during 2016–2019. She obtained her Ph.D. in chemistry from Princeton University in 2014.

Dr. Ji will begin her post in January 2021

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.

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: https://neup.inl.gov/SitePages/FY19_SF_Recipients.aspx



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 dps.utah.edu/coronavirus.

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 — sara.j.wilson@utah.edu

Angela Nelson — angela.nelson@utah.edu

Brenda Wicks — brenda.wicks@utah.edu

Kay Argyle — kay.argyle@utah.edu

Joshua Hansen — hansen@mse.utah.edu

Dave Cohrs  — dave.cohrs@utah.edu

Kimberly Watts — kimberly.watts@utah.edu

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 https://utah.craniumcafe.com/brendawicks, 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: Brenda.wicks@utah.edu

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 https://utah.craniumcafe.com/sarawilsonclick 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: Sara.j.wilson@utah.edu

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 sara.j.wilson@utah.edu.

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 svpaa@utah.edu

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 mse@eng.utah.edu 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 *