EL PASO, Texas (Dec. 7, 2022) – The University of Texas at El Paso in partnership with the University of New Mexico and the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University will prepare the next generation of nuclear security enterprise (NSE) talent to develop electronics for extreme environments through a five-year, $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
“With this grant, UTEP will make substantial research contributions to national security with a special emphasis on nuclear security, extreme environment electronics and computer systems,” said Kenith Meissner, Ph.D., dean of the UTEP College of Engineering. “We are excited to lead this nationally coordinated consortium of industry, government and university partners.”
Electronics for extreme environments include materials, electronic devices, sensors, circuits, electronic packaging and systems that can sustain environmental challenges such as extreme temperatures, mechanical stresses and radiation fields. Applications include the use of electronics in high-power energy conversion, space and weapon systems, all critical to DOE and its National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).
The grant will fund the efforts of the newly established Consortium for Education and Research in Electronics for Extreme Environments (E3C) to create a sustainable pipeline of electrical engineers from underrepresented populations for the NSE workforce. The consortium includes Hispanic-Serving Institutions UTEP and the University of New Mexico (UNM), both top-tier research universities, and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NCA&T), one of the top 10 Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the nation according to U.S. News & World Report. NNSA partners include Kansas City National Security Campus (KCNSC), Sandia National Laboratories (Sandia) and Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL).
The award is part of NNSA’s Minority Serving Institution Partnership Program, an initiative designed to build a sustainable pipeline between DOE sites and labs and minority-serving institutions in STEM disciplines.
“This grant will provide outstanding opportunities for our students and for UTEP to grow in our capabilities in electronics research and teaching,” said Miguel Velez-Reyes, Ph.D., professor and chair of electrical and computer engineering, and the grant’s principal investigator. “We are at a particular point in time in which there is a recognition among leaders in industry and government of the pressing need to increase the electrical engineering workforce to spur domestic growth in areas such as chip manufacturing, transportation electrification, aerospace systems and advanced electronics packaging.”
Velez-Reyes also said he expects recent changes in U.S. manufacturing policies to increase the demand for electrical engineers, particularly as it pertains to electronic devices, systems and their applications.
To address that demand, over the next five years the program will provide financial support to at least 65 graduate and undergraduate students from the three academic institutions in the form of stipends, scholarships and health insurance assistance. Many other program participants will benefit from new curriculum, research opportunities and internships at DOE partner facilities, and professional and career development activities.
The project’s collaborative research program will be performed in collaboration with scientists and engineers from KCNSC, Sandia and LANL.
The consortium also will engage in outreach opportunities to community college and high school students to introduce them to careers and career paths in electrical engineering.
At UTEP, faculty will also develop new courses in electronics for extreme environments, micro-electro-mechanical systems, and emerging additive manufacturing technologies for electronics.
Joining Velez-Reyes at UTEP are co-principal investigators Robert C. Roberts, Ph.D., assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering; David Zubia, Ph.D., professor of electrical and computer engineering; Brian E. Schuster, Ph.D., associate professor of metallurgical, materials and biomedical engineering; and Raymond C. Rumpf, Ph.D., professor of electrical and computer engineering and computational science. The lead at UNM is Daniel Feezell, Ph.D., associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and at NCA&T is Abdullah Eroglu, Ph.D., department chair and professor of electrical engineering.
The consortium is recruiting students from electrical engineering and materials science and engineering to start in the program beginning in spring 2023. To learn more, visit www. e3consortium.org.
About The University of Texas at El Paso
The University of Texas at El Paso is America’s leading Hispanic-serving university. Located at the westernmost tip of Texas, where three states and two countries converge along the Rio Grande, 84% of our 24,000 students are Hispanic, and half are the first in their families to go to college. UTEP offers 169 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs at the only open-access, top-tier research university in America.