UW-Madison’s Robert Agasie and Andrea Strzelec Win DOE Nuclear Research Award 

Andrea Strzelec
Robert Agasie

MADISON, Wis.— University of Wisconsin Nuclear Reactor (UWNR) Director Robert Agasie and Dr. Andrea Strzelec recently received $222,294 from the Department of Energy Nuclear Energy University Program (DOE NEUP) for their project, “Development of Neutron Tomography at the UWNR.” This project will enhance nuclear energy-related research and development at the UWNR and associated Characterization Laboratory for Irradiated Materials (CLIM), which also houses UW Mechanical Engineering Professor Mark Anderson’s X-ray Imaging System.

There is a clear need for neutron imaging at major U.S. facilities for a variety of applications, including energy, materials science, geology, homeland security and contraband detection, biomedical and bioengineering, cultural heritage, physics, and chemistry.

Agasie and Strzelec (who is a program director for online master’s programs in the College of Engineering’s Interdisciplinary Professional Programs and an honorary associate research scientist in the Mechanical Engineering Department), will work with an undergraduate researcher from the Engineering Physics Department. They aim to develop neutron imaging capabilities at the reactor by acquiring a high-resolution detector, rotation stage, visualization software, and a high-performance computer. Not only will this instrument enhance the ongoing outreach and education activities of the UWNR, the resultant instrument will become part of the National Scientific User Facility program and expand access to neutron imaging by university researchers in the U.S. The project will include collaboration with Dr. Hassina Bilheux from Neutron Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Dr. Burkhard Schillinger from FRM-II at Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Zentrum Technische Universität München.

“I was introduced to neutron imaging during my postdoc at ORNL, where I got to work with Dr. Bilheux and send samples to Dr. Schillinger in Germany for imaging,” says Strzelec. “When I got back to UW and learned that UWNR Director Agasie did his MS work on neutron imaging, it all came together. This is a really fantastic opportunity to bring a new capability to UW-Madison and leverage our unique facility—not many universities even have a reactor, so we are incredibly lucky.”

The proposed enhancement to nuclear energy-related research and development at the UWNR will directly support educational and research capabilities in the following ways:

  • Develop a new research tool for increasing the accessibility of neutron imaging to the community of university, national laboratory, and industry users
  • Increase utilization and awareness of the UWNR
  • Support research relevant to the DOE-NE mission through the DOE-NE funded programs
  • Support technology development and technology transfer from government-funded research to the market through collaboration with private industrial partners
  • Develop a competent and diverse workforce for the nuclear industry