Graduate student Pratik Joshi was exploring potential summer internships when his college adviser suggested he look into opportunities at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).
As he dug into the lab’s rich history, Joshi discovered that he and ORNL shared a connection: ORNL scientists helped develop the first creep-strength enhanced ferritic (CSEF) steel, Grade 91, a material that just so happened to be the focus of his research project as an undergraduate.
Joshi knew then that ORNL was the place for him. He applied and was accepted into the Nuclear Engineering Science Laboratory Synthesis (NESLS) Program at ORNL, which offers research opportunities related to nuclear engineering for undergraduate and graduate students.
Under the guidance of Yanwen Zhang, Ph.D., a distinguished research and development staff member in ORNL’s Materials Science and Technology Division and director of the Energy Dissipation to Defect Evolution (EDDE) Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC), Joshi contributed to research that seeks to understand the fundamental mechanisms of radiation damage in materials. Specifically, Joshi studied the dissipation of radiation energy in concentrated solid-solution alloys that contain nickel. These alloys are expected to have a wide range of applications in both fission and fusion reactors.
At the Ion Beam Materials Laboratory on the campus of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Joshi and other EDDE team members employed a technique known as ion beam channeling to examine the effects of radiation on the nickel-containing alloys and identify defect evolution in a radiation environment.
Ultimately, Joshi said, the EDDE team’s research will help establish new design principles for radiation-tolerant structural alloys and lead to safer and more economical operations at nuclear power plants.
For Joshi, his 12-week NESLS internship offered a rewarding research experience and provided several valuable professional development opportunities. One highlight was Career Connections Day, where Joshi learned the importance of forming meaningful connections throughout one’s career and received advice on his resume and LinkedIn profile. Additionally, he relished the chance to tour ORNL’s state-of-the-art facilities, including Summit, the world’s fastest supercomputer.
Joshi continues to pursue a master’s degree in nuclear engineering at North Carolina State University and plans to seek a doctoral degree in materials science. After completing his studies, he hopes to work at a national laboratory, such as ORNL, and develop new radiation-resistant materials for use on spacecraft.
The NESLS program at ORNL is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy.