Skip to main content

Fellowship awarded to materials science doctoral student to advance microelectronics

The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced $6.3 million in funding to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing nuclear energy-related degrees across the United States.

Michael Curtis, a first-year doctoral student in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering, was among 32 students nationwide to receive a prestigious three-year graduate fellowship through the Department of Energy’s¬†University Nuclear Leadership Program. The fellowship provides $169,000 over three years to help pay for graduate studies and research. Fellowships also include a one-time, $7,000 allowance that funds an internship at a Department of Energy national laboratory or other approved research facility to strengthen the ties between students and department’s energy research programs.

“I am very grateful to have been selected and given this opportunity to contribute toward the advancement of this exciting field,” Curtis said. “I intend on making great strides and maximizing the opportunity put before me. I believe that future energy technologies have great potential to address the multitude of challenges facing our nation today.”

Curtis’ fellowship includes his work with David Estrada, associate professor in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering¬†and associate director of the Center for Advanced Energy Studies for Boise State. His research focuses on two-dimensional materials for radiation-hardened electronics.

Curtis is a veteran of the United State Marines and currently serves as a First Lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve. He received a bachelor’s degree in physics from Boise State in 2019 before deploying to Kuwait, where he oversaw missile defense systems. He is entering his second year in the interdisciplinary materials science and engineering doctoral program, with an emphasis on materials for extreme environments.

“Michael demonstrates a level of leadership and maturity that gives me the utmost confidence that I made the right choice in assigning him as the tool lead for the nation’s first 2D Close Coupled Showerhead MOCVD [metal organic chemical vapor deposition] reactor located at a university,” Estrada said. “I have been inspired by his passion for science, his attention to detail throughout the procurement and installation process of this multi-million dollar system and his rapid progress in the field through participation in the National Science Foundation 2D Crystal Consortium Resident Scholar Visitor Program at Penn State University. He definitely has the right stuff to execute his proposed research and advance microelectronics technologies for the benefit of our national priorities.”

Since 2009, the Department of Energy’s University Nuclear Leadership Program has awarded more than 1,100 scholarships and fellowships totaling more than $67 million. Of the students who have completed nuclear energy-related fellowships, 95% have either continued to advance their education in nuclear energy or obtained careers at Department of Energy national laboratories, other government agencies, academic institutions or private companies.

Of those former fellowship winners, nine are university professors engaged in nuclear energy-related research and three were competitively awarded as lead investigators or collaborators for Office of Nuclear Energy research and development projects in fiscal year 2022.

“Nuclear energy is a vital tool for meeting the nation’s bold climate and energy goals,” Department of Energy Under Secretary for Science and Innovation Geri Richmond said. “To ensure its continued development and deployment, we must empower the next generation of diverse, nuclear energy leaders.”