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INL National University Consortium

1. HeadlineMarianne Walck headshot
Dr. Marianne Walck began her role as the deputy laboratory director for Science and Technology and INL's chief research officer on Jan. 7, 2019, replacing Kelly Beierschmitt who accepted a new role at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Walck has more than 25 years of DOE National Laboratory technical leadership experience, including technical program leadership, research leadership, and line, personnel, and site management.  From 2015 to 2017, Walck was the vice president of Sandia's California laboratory as well as serving as the lead for Sandia's Energy and Climate Program. As vice president of Sandia's California laboratory, Walck was responsible for principal programs including nuclear weapons stewardship; homeland security with a focus on defending against weapons of mass destruction; combustion, transportation, and hydrogen energy research; biology; and advanced computational and information systems.
Prior to that, Walck held a variety of research and management positions at Sandia. She served on the Sandia Research Leadership Team, created and led the Geoscience Research Foundation; was director of the Geoscience, Climate, and Consequence Effects Center; and was director of the Nuclear Energy and Global Security Technologies Center.
Walck received a master's and a doctorate in geophysics from the California Institute of Technology and a bachelor's degree in geology/physics from Hope College. She holds memberships in the American Geophysical Union, the Seismological Society of America, the Association for Women Geoscientists, the American Nuclear Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She serves on several advisory boards for universities and technical institutes including the Texas A&M Energy Institute, and is a Senior Fellow of the California Council of Science and Technology.
1/21/2019January 2019
4. University HighlightMary Juhas
​By Travis Moedl
If you're a female innovator and want your idea or invention out in the world for everyone to see, what do you do? How do you make it happen? According to Mary Juhas, associate vice president in the Office of Research at the Ohio State University, one of the most important factors in getting an idea visible is having the confidence and vision to make it happen. "If you can't see it, you can't be it," said Juhas. "You must have the confidence to believe your ideas can have a positive impact on society and have the vision to take down any barriers that stand in your way."

Juhas is the leader of the ADVANCE program at Ohio State, designed to increase the participation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers with a focus on building research leaders. Most current STEM leaders are male, which Juhas is hoping changes as a result of the work she's doing with ADVANCE. "Women face a number of hurdles when it comes to innovations in the STEM field," said Juhas. "It is crucial that we keep women involved."

As the ADVANCE leader, she directs "REACH for Commercialization," a workshop series for women faculty inventors. The REACH program engages cohorts of inventors who share the same vision of amplifying their research impact by moving ideas to the market.

Part of commercializing research involves obtaining patents and filing invention disclosure records, a first step in the patenting process. However, according to a paper from the Institute for Women's Policy Research published in July 2016, "…women hold an extremely small share of patents…at the current rate of progress, gender equity is more than 75 years away." Records indicate that of all patents approved in the United States by 2010, women have a share in only18 percent of them.

The REACH workshops tackle some of the key stages of commercialization, and address subjects such as brainstorming their research's impact on society, learning the research and commercialization landscape, and understanding how to build a team of key partners with similar goals. Workshops are scheduled during work hours to maximize efficiency due to the limited time commitments that women often face, such as family or committee commitments. In addition to being a great way to meet new collaborators, they provide friendly, individual coaching and professional development opportunities.

The program aims to change the mindset of women, and urges them to bring their research to market. "Women tend to think everything has to be perfect," added Juhas. "Since most women generally don't like the idea of self-promotion, REACH is designed to give these women the confidence to encourage and share new ideas."

Part of her answer to this problem was establishing an Entrepreneur-in-Residence program. Through this program, Juhas has hired an entrepreneur who provides participants with expertise about all aspects of the commercialization process, and a personalized follow-up with each participant. The program connects participants to each other and to an innovation ecosystem, and most importantly, builds the confidence of the women taking part.

The REACH program has significantly increased the numbers of invention disclosures submitted and patent applications filed by women, nearly doubling from 88 to 173.

The program has been particularly effective in shifting the thinking of researchers toward commercialization as an alternative to publication as a measure of success. According to Juhas, however, both should be attainable. "Commercialization helps people better visualize their vision," said Juhas. "You can obtain a patent and still be able to publish the article in a prestigious high-impact journal in order to get it more recognized."

The idea of furthering the research careers of women makes Juhas extremely proud. "REACH has a lot of my soul in it," she said. "I just enjoy being able to build stronger women research leaders. It gives me a sense of joy knowing that I've left a place better than when I found it."

What advice does Juhas believe is important for future female leaders wanting to pursue a career in the STEM field? "Stay involved," she said. "Spend more time creating networks and engaging with other women...It's not easy to do. But if we work together on a shared vision, it could be!"
1/21/2019January 2019
5. INL HighlightPRISM Cut away
Idaho National Laboratory has awarded a subcontract to GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to support the conceptual design, cost/schedule estimate and safety framework activities for a proposed fast spectrum Versatile Test Reactor (VTR), critical for the development of innovative nuclear fuels, materials, instrumentation and sensors.

The subcontract is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy’s Versatile Test Reactor program, which is investigating what it would take to establish a reactor-based fast-spectrum neutron irradiation capability in the United States by 2026.

Within the INL-led VTR team, engineers from GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy will adapt the company’s ( sodium-cooled nuclear reactor design to the needs of a test reactor for state-of-the art research and development purposes.

“To meet our aggressive schedule for establishing this much-needed capability in the United States, it is necessary to leverage an existing and mature sodium-cooled fast reactor design that can be modified to meet the needs of a versatile test reactor,” said INL’s Kemal Pasamehmetoglu, the executive director of VTR. “Having a timely and detailed conceptual design is critical to generating an accurate cost and schedule estimate, which will then be key to DOE’s decision on whether to move forward in 2020.”

Establishing a fast spectrum test reactor ensures continued U.S. technology leadership in nuclear energy innovation. Currently, only a few capabilities are available for testing fast neutron reactor technology in the world and none in the U.S.

DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy established the VTR program earlier this year in response to reports outlining the need for a fast spectrum test reactor, including one issued by the agency’s Nuclear Energy Advisory Committee (NEAC) in 2017. In that report, NEAC recommended “that DOE-NE proceed immediately with preconceptual design planning activities to support a new test reactor (including cost and schedule estimates).”

The recommendation, in part, was based on responses from U.S. companies developing advanced reactors, many of which require different testing facilities than the commercial nuclear power technology in use today.

Also recently, Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (S.97) highlighted the need for a reactor-based fast neutron source authorizing DOE to proceed with the relevant activities.

1/21/2019January 2019
5. INL Highlight
​By Kate Meehan

Johanna Oxstrand and Katya Le Blanc did not set out to be innovators when they began working together at Idaho National Laboratory. Both women work for INL's Human Factors group, which focuses on solving problems that arise from the interaction of people with technology. Specifically, Oxstrand and Le Blanc work on computer-based procedures, bringing advanced technology into existing nuclear power plants to improve safety and efficiency. 
In 2012, they were tasked with bringing computer-based procedures to nuclear power plants. Traditionally, nuclear power plants have been governed by paper-based procedures, which are compiled in heavy documents that fieldworkers carry around as they perform their duties. The workers keep track of their tasks with a pen, circling the step they are on and striking through it when the step is completed. Any recorded values as well as calculations must be recorded by hand. They must also bring papers for other employees to acknowledge procedures are completed. 
Some products that put electronic copies, e.g., PDFs, of the procedures onto tablets already existed, but this did little to change the overall experience of the fieldworkers. But Oxstrand and Le Blanc saw an opportunity for radical innovation in this process.
"We fought against the idea of incremental progress," said Le Blanc. 
Instead, the women sought to completely redesign the process for workers to carry out their procedures. They traveled frequently to power plants around the country to learn how workers used their procedures and to see what could be improved. As they worked through their prototypes, they kept up their busy travel schedule to get feedback from nuclear plant employees throughout the development process. 
Oxstrand credits INL with supporting their extensive traveling to allow them to be physically present in the power plants, building relationships and trust with workers, thereby allowing them to develop their innovative technology.
For some time, Oxstrand and Le Blanc still did not see themselves as innovators. "There was a need that we were filling," explained Le Blanc. "We did not think that we were innovating."
Their extensive research resulted in the development of ELINA, or Electronic Instructions for Nuclear Applications. This product only presents information that is relevant to the task at hand. It also provides interactive instructions and provides a way for workers to route documents to people for approval without having to physically deliver paperwork.
In 2017, Rachael Hill joined the ELINA team to participate in Energy I-Corps, a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy aimed at assisting engineers and scientists from national labs in commercializing technologies they have developed. 
Le Blanc identified the I-Corps program as "incredibly helpful" for encouraging the team to develop their technology, explain their ideas to various audiences and advertise their product to potential users.
Hill, in turn, described Oxstrand and Le Blanc as truly supportive mentors for her own success going through I-Corps. While their team does not have a formalized mentorship program, Hill finds that the informal mentorship provided by Oxstrand and Le Blanc has been vital to her experience as an INL employee. All three women credited the essential role that mentorship can have on the success of female innovators and for women in STEM generally, with Oxstrand and Le Blanc emphasizing how important it has been for them to provide that experience for Hill. 
The ELINA team has received two DOE Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF) awards to mature their idea and develop it with an industry partner. They are working with an outside vendor, NextAxiom, on commercializing ELINA with a planned deployment in 2019. They are also working with Devbridge Group, a second outside vendor, to commercialize a highly dynamic work management system in 2020. The goal of both commercialization efforts is to make the ELINA technology available and accessible to the nuclear industry.
1/21/2019January 2019
6. Administrative
Registration is still open for the National University Consortium (NUC) and Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES) joint Laboratory-directed Research and Development (LDRD) workshop.

The NUC and CAES are teaming up to hold a joint workshop focused on INL's LDRD call.
The LDRD call will solicit research proposals (that must be led by an INL employee) supporting progress toward INL's strategic objectives and critical outcomes, including topics under:
  1. Nuclear Energy Competitiveness and Leadership
  2. Integrated Fuel Cycle Solutions
  3. Advance Integrated Energy Systems
  4. Advance Design and Manufacturing
  5. Enduring Control Systems Cybersecurity Innovation Capabilities
Each day will consist of breakout sessions with INL subject matter experts presenting INL's LDRD workscopes.

Energy Innovation Laboratory (EIL)
775 University Blvd.
Idaho Falls, ID

Tuesday, February 5, 2019 – Wednesday, February 6, 2019

How to Register?
Registration is open at:

1/21/2019January 2019
6. Administrative
​The National University Consortium's annual report is now available for view. The annual report details NUC's highlights from FY 2018 including the 93 students supported with NUC funds, 47 collaborative research projects, and $21 million in new funding won in FY-18.

To view the annual report, please visit:

1/21/2019January 2019
Page Contact: Marsha Bala | (208) 526-1336 | Email Contact​​​​