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College of Engineering and Computing

  • Sobhan touches lab machine.

CEC grad student receives national scholarship for nuclear research

By Abe Danaher |  November 13, 2019

Sobhan Patnaik, a third-year doctoral candidate in the UofSC nuclear engineering program, received the American Nuclear Society’s 2019 James F. Schumer Scholarship for his research on the cracking behavior of light water reactor fuel pellets under transient temperature conditions.

“Receiving this award means a lot,” Patnaik says. “It gives me better motivation and is a big encouragement – my work means something, and the larger nuclear community accepts and acknowledges it.”

To conduct this research, he has built a test rig at the College of Engineering and Computing that he uses to record the cracks and temperature of fuel pellets inside a ultra-high vacuum chamber. His experimental results will eventually be used by the Idaho National Laboratory to verify their fuel performance models under accident situations, so that nuclear safety across the United States is ensured.

For Patnaik, the acknowledgement of his work by the American Nuclear Society is important. He says that throughout his undergraduate and graduate studies, he hasn’t always seen how his work fits into the larger picture. But now, with this scholarship and the acclaim his research is receiving, he is confident in his work’s importance.

“I really never thought that the work I do would matter to people in general,” he says. “So, when you realize that you are doing something that will eventually be taken to a national lab and that your results will impact the validation of some models – it’s wonderful." 

Upon graduating, Patnaik plans to continue working in research and development. His hope is to continue in this same vein of research either within the nuclear industry or any department of energy national lab, so that he can continue improving nuclear safety.


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