Energy research at UNL should double within three to five years with the Nebraska Center for Energy Sciences Research as a catalyst.
That’s the vision of the center’s new director, Mike Nastasi. An accomplished materials scientist, Nastasi joined UNL in January from Los Alamos National Laboratory where he directed the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Frontier Research Center for Materials at Irradiation and Mechanical Extremes.
Nastasi sees great potential for NCESR and UNL. He plans to build upon the center’s early successes, a strong partnership with Nebraska Public Power District, Chancellor Harvey Perlman’s plan to increase enrollment and research, and plans for Nebraska Innovation Campus.
“I see energy playing a major role in what’s happening at Innovation Campus,” he said, and added that energy research will help attract businesses to the campus. “Faculty are great at developing intellectual property, and Innovation Campus is a way to get that intellectual property out to the world.”
UNL can help tackle both applied and more basic problems to improve the energy outlook for Nebraska and beyond, Nastasi said.
“The center can play an even bigger role in solving energy problems for Nebraska and also for the nation,” he said. “Nebraska will benefit from that expanded national role.”
He aims to further strengthen the center by increasing the focus on research areas with the best potential for lucrative federal funding. Noting the center’s “incredible return on investment from seed grants” so far, Nastasi said attracting more funding will enable UNL to expand the scope and impact of its energy research.
Nastasi is also a professor of mechanical and materials engineering and holds the Elmer Koch Professorship. He’ll continue his research on developing materials for extreme radiation environments. UNL will be a university affiliate of the Energy Frontier Research Center at Los Alamos National Laboratory, along with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Carnegie Mellon University.
One of Nastasi’s first jobs at UNL is finding a UNL graduate student to work at Los Alamos National Laboratory to support his research on materials for advanced nuclear reactor designs.
–Vicki Miller, UNL Research