Inaugural UCI Engineering-Los Alamos National Laboratory Fellows Named

UCI Engineering-Los Alamos National Laboratory Fellows, clockwise from top left: Yifu Gao, Annika Hjelmstad, Robert Marosi, Peiwen J. Ma.

Aug. 2, 2022 – UC Irvine’s Samueli School of Engineering has announced the first four recipients of the UCI Engineering-Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Fellowship.

This new fellowship, which begins in fall 2022, is part of the collaborative partnership announced earlier this year between the UCI school of engineering and LANL. Los Alamos is the first national lab in this growing partnership between UCI and several Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories. The fellowships are designed to support UCI engineering graduate students working in areas of joint interest with LANL, bridging research and training between the two institutions and creating long-term collaboration between Samueli School faculty and LANL scientists.

For the inaugural year, fellowship recipients were chosen from the three targeted research areas that were the focus of the joint research forum organized at UCI in December 2021: climate and environmental systems modeling; renewable energy research, development and deployment; and materials and chemical research.

Fellows will receive co-mentorship from an engineering professor and a LANL scientist. The Samueli School is providing funding for three of the fellowships, and LANL is funding the fourth. This partnership is aimed at increasing research collaboration between faculty and DOE national laboratories, creating educational opportunities for UCI students and enhancing workforce development in critical areas of research of national interest.

“I am happy to see that our vision to create a corridor between UCI engineering and Los Alamos National Lab is taking off,” said Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, UCI Distinguished Professor and Samueli School associate dean of research and innovation, who spearheaded the partnership between the two institutions. “I want to thank John Sarrao, deputy director of Science, Technology and Engineering at LANL, as without his commitment this effort would not have been possible. I also want to thank Lori Greene, assistant dean for engineering research development, for managing our collaborative program with LANL. I look forward to the success of these inaugural fellows and many more initiatives to come in the near future.”

Here are the inaugural fellows.

Annika Hjelmstad, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Mentors: Professor Amir AghaKouchak, UCI; Donatella Pasqualini, LANL

Hjelmstad’s research focuses on impact-based attribution, aiming to causally link human-induced climate change with felt societal impacts such as population displacement, increased health risks and infrastructure damage. The collaboration with LANL will provide the cross-disciplinary knowledge necessary to model several of these links. “I am excited to work with my LANL mentor Donatella Pasqualini, as her expertise in geophysical mechanisms and infrastructure systems will help establish crucial links between climate drivers and impacts,” Hjelmstad said. “I am also looking forward to, more broadly, getting a better sense of the set of pressing practical problems we face in science today by collaborating with LANL.”

Peiwen J. Ma, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Mentors: Associate Professor SungWoo Nam, UCI; Jinkyoung Yoo, LANL

Ma is interested in investigating and advancing our understanding of strain- and defect-induced optical states in 2D materials, including transition metal dichalcogenides and their heterostructures. These new understandings are expected to enable the next generation of optoelectronic devices. Ma said, “I am very excited to work with my LANL mentor Jinkyoung Yoo, who will help expand my understanding of 2D materials, as he has an extensive expertise in the subject. The facilities at LANL are state-of-the-art and will help enhance our analysis capabilities and forward my research in combination with the facilities at UCI. And LANL is a historic place, renowned for making remarkable advances, and so it will be an honor to be there and be a part of it all.”

Robert Marosi, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Mentors: Professor Filippo Capolino, UCI; Muhammed Zuboraj, LANL

Marosi’s research focuses on the design, modeling and analysis of dispersion-engineered slow-wave structures for use in traveling-wave tubes (TWTs). Traveling-wave tubes are high-power and broadband radio frequency amplifiers that are used on satellites for applications such as remote sensing, environmental monitoring and telecommunication. Marosi wishes to collaborate with the engineers and scientists at LANL to develop new design methods and structures to make millimeter-wave TWTs more efficient. “What I'm most excited about is the fact that I get to make new connections with experts in my field of research,” Marosi explained. “I'm also excited to receive hands-on training from my mentor on state-of-the-art measurement, fabrication and design techniques.”

Yifu Gao, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Mentors: Jasper Vrugt and Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, UCI; Chonggang Xu, LANL.

Gao’s research focuses on understanding the complex, heterogeneous and transient (inter)relationships between rainfall and topsoil moisture content. The ultimate goal of his research is to study the vadose zone (the undersaturated portion of the subsurface that lies above the groundwater table highly affected by climate and human activities) in a way that can improve and/or correct global estimates of surface rainfall using satellite/in-situ soil moisture observations. Gao said, “I will do my utmost to benefit from the training and resources that Chonggang Xu can provide. Having access to a national lab is a great opportunity for me to not only diversify my Ph.D. research with interdisciplinary expertise but to also help meet my career goal of pursuing a research career either in academia or in a national laboratory.”

– Rachel Karas