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Department of Energy awards two fellowships to Boise State grad students

Two Boise State University students were awarded fellowships through the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Nuclear Energy’s Integrated University Program (NEUP) in mid-April. Kaelee Novich and Kati Wada were among 34 students nationwide to receive one of the prestigious three-year fellowships, which provide $52,000 per year for graduate studies. The fellowships also include a $5,000 stipend to complete a summer fellowship at a DOE national laboratory or other approved research facility to strengthen the ties between students and DOE’s energy research programs.

Novich’s fellowship will enable her work with Brian Jaques, an assistant professor in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering and the Boise State faculty lead on nuclear energy at the Center of Advanced Energy Studies.

Kaelee Novich

In 2019, Novich also was awarded the NEUP scholarship to support research on developing ways to incorporate boron into a molten aluminum alloy for dry-cask cooling storage of nuclear waste. She worked as an undergraduate research assistant in the Advanced Materials Laboratory with Jaques and has worked with DOE’s In-Pile Instrumentation Program at Idaho National Laboratory.

In addition to being awarded two NEUP scholarships in the past two years, she also is a member of the Society of Women Engineers, the American Nuclear Society Club and a former National Science Foundation Scholar.

“I am currently working on the development of sensing technology to better monitor systems in nuclear reactors. I hope to continue this research through the first year of my degree. Through graduate school, I hope to find a path forward that will include scientific research and policy management that is tied to nuclear energy,” said Novich.

Novich has been named a Top Ten Scholar and will graduate in May. She will begin her doctoral degree in materials science and engineering with an emphasis in nuclear energy and policy management at Boise State in fall 2020.

photo of Kati
Kati Wada

Wada’s fellowship will enable her to work with David Estrada, associate director of the Center for Advanced Energy Studies for Boise State and an associate professor in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering. Her research will focus on modeling temperature and thermal conductivity for nuclear in-pile measurements, and developing new instruments that will allow scientists to look into a nuclear reactor’s core and observe never-before measured phenomena.

“Kati’s enthusiasm for science is contagious,” said Estrada. “I was personally inspired by her journey when I learned that her passion to understand our universe motivated her to teach herself string theory in high school after completing all the available physics courses in her curriculum.”

“Being awarded the DOE NEUP graduate fellowship, I feel extremely grateful for being given the opportunity to demonstrate my capabilities and tackle this grand challenge. This research has made me feel more accomplished than any other I’ve been a part of, and will help me grow as a professional in the nuclear energy field. I am excited to collaborate with experts at Idaho National Laboratory. Such collaborations not only provide access to world class researchers and equipment, but also provide the knowledge, skills, and mentoring needed to succeed in a career in nuclear energy,” said Wada.

Wada completed her bachelor’s degree in physics from Boise State in 2018 and is entering her second year in the interdisciplinary materials science and engineering doctoral program with an emphasis on materials for extreme environments.

Since 2009, DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy’s Integrated University Program has awarded nearly 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 fiscal year 2019.

“The Integrated University Program is focused on attracting the best and the brightest to nuclear energy professions,” said Rita Baranwal, assistant secretary for nuclear energy. “We are continuing that effort through these awards to students who will help carry nuclear energy forward, while also enhancing educational institutions’ capabilities to perform cutting-edge research, and supporting the need for qualified personnel to develop and maintain the nation’s nuclear power technology.”