NSUF Article

NSUF welcomes 2024 Users Organization Executive Committee

Tuesday, February 6, 2024 - Users Group

By Alexis Starks, NSUF at Idaho National Laboratory

Our Nuclear Science User Facilities leadership is proud to introduce the 2024 Users Organization executive committee: Chair Maria Okuniewski from Purdue University, Vice Chair Stephen Taller from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Secretary Ramprashad Prabhakaran from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Student Representative Malachi Nelson from Idaho National Laboratory.

“I am excited to work with a group of such talented and experienced NSUF users with a diverse representation from national laboratories, academia and industry,” said Chair Maria Okuniewski.” This year there was overwhelming support and interest from the community for the Users Group Executive Board. This engagement will allow for continued sustainability within the community.”

As stated in its charter, the purpose of the Users Organization is to 1. provide a formal and clear channel for the exchange of information, advice and best practices between the investigators who perform reactor-based nuclear technology experiments and NSUF management; 2. to educate and inform all stakeholders regarding experimental activities at NSUF; and 3. to facilitate communications among NSUF users. The executive committee oversees the organization to facilitate these goals.  

“The new Executive Committee for 2024 represents experienced NSUF users and partner facility leads with university and national laboratory experience,” said NSUF Director Brenden Heidrich. “I encourage all NSUF users as well as first-time applicants to the program to join the User's Organization and reach out to them with NSUF questions.”

Director Heidrich describes the Users Organization as “the interface between the program office and the user community. They represent a vast library of knowledge on the NSUF, our partners, and the best practices to submit successful proposals and to execute successful projects.” The executive committee also spearheads the annual Users Organization meetings, such as the
2024 NSUF Users Organization Meeting, which is scheduled for March 7 in Orlando, Florida and will be held in association with the Minerals, Metals and Materials Society (TMS) 2024 Annual Meeting and Exhibition.

Membership in the organization is open to all users and potential users of the various NSUF facilities and scientists and engineers engaged in the operation and development of these facilities.
Potential members can join by self-nomination.


2024 Users Organization Executive Committee

Maria Okuniewski
Purdue University

Maria Okuniewski is an associate professor in the School of Materials Engineering at Purdue University, where she also holds a courtesy appointment with the School of Nuclear Engineering. Previous to joining Purdue in 2016, she spent approximately eight years at Idaho National Laboratory as a research and development scientist and engineer, where she also served as a Technical Lead for NSUF. She has conducted research on transmutation fuels, high-performance research and test reactor fuels, structural materials, and waste storage materials for over twenty years. Okuniewski’s research focuses on the nexus of microstructural evolution, processing, mechanical properties, and irradiation performance to improve upon next generation fuels and materials, including minimizing proliferation.

Vice Chair
Stephen Taller
Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Stephen Taller is a research and development associate staff member and Alvin M. Weinberg fellow in the Nuclear Energy and Fuel Cycle Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Prior to joining ORNL, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan and completed a PhD in Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences at the University of Michigan. He has extensive experience in designing, conducting and analyzing experiments to study radiation damage effects in neutron irradiated and ion irradiated structural and core materials, primarily using transmission electron microscopy, at multiple NSUF partner facilities.  Taller’s research focuses on methods to accelerate and optimize the nuclear materials development cycle through microstructural characterization of metals and alloys, analysis of ion irradiation as a supplement or surrogate for neutron irradiation and exploration of advanced manufacturing methods for nuclear technology.

Ramprashad Prabhakaran
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Ramprashad Prabhakaran is a Materials Scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). He has been actively involved in the nuclear fuels, structural, cladding and accelerator materials research and development for over 20 years and has worked at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and Idaho National Laboratory before joining PNNL. He has extensive experience in utilizing hotcells, performing corrosion studies, mechanical and microstructural characterizations of nuclear materials and welded/processed alloys, evaluating irradiation effects, and understanding structure-property-processing-dose relationships. He is the PI, Co-PI, and task lead for several USDOE (NE, NNSA and Office of Science) projects supporting NSUF, AMMT, AFC, IMARC, RERTR/M3, RaDIATE, Fusion and Tritium Technology programs. He is the past chair of TMS Nuclear Materials, Corrosion and Environmental Effects, and Young Professionals Committees.

Student Representative
Malachi Nelson
Idaho National Laboratory

Malachi Nelson is an Idaho National Laboratory graduate fellow and final year PhD candidate at the University of California, Berkeley. His research involves nuclear structural materials including mechanical properties and microstructure characterization of zircaloy cladding. Malachi investigates anisotropic viscoplastic properties of cladding in reactor conditions such as pellet-cladding mechanical interactions to improve cladding resilience to reactor power ramping and load following. Outside of work, Malachi is active in energy policy and STEM advocacy and enjoys snowboarding and backpacking.

Are you interested in a more active role within NSUF? Become an NSUF Users Organization member today:

1. Visit nsuf.inl.gov/page/nsuf
2. Go to your NSUF profile
3. Click the edit icon in the “Profile Information” box
4. Check the “Users Group” box and click "save."