NSUF Article

Colin Judge Joins NSUF as Industry Lead

Tuesday, November 26, 2019 - Newsletter, Program Office Highlight

Judge joined NSUF in September leaving Canadian Nuclear Laboratories. With a background in materials science, Judge will also act as a technical lead, assisting experiment managers with NSUF projects.

Materials scientist Colin Judge may have just recently joined Idaho National Laboratory, but his knowledge of the lab goes back 10 years. He estimates that off and on he spent three months of his career at INL before taking his current assignment in September.

Judge came from Canadian Nuclear Laboratories in Chalk River, Ontario, where he was a research scientist in the Materials Science branch. His association with INL goes back to 2009, when he sought to examine CANDU reactor fuels and materials using focused ion beam (FIB) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) equipment at INL’s Materials & Fuels Complex (MFC).

With a wife and three small children in tow, Idaho Falls represents a big change from Pembroke, Ontario, population 14,000. “It’s a larger city than we’re used to,” Judge said. Canadian to the core, they have already connected with the local hockey community.

Meanwhile, INL and the Nuclear Science User Facilities (NSUF) are hopeful that Judge’s expertise and strong connections with the U.S. commercial nuclear industry will advance the cause of applied research in nuclear material and fuels.

“We want to promote the work of industry and help them solve their problems,” said NSUF Director Rory Kennedy. “Colin has long experience and industry contacts.”

In addition to his industry outreach, a job performed for NSUF by John Jackson before he became acting director of the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN), Judge is a technical lead for NSUF, working with experiment managers and moving projects forward at INL and other NSUF partner facilities.

For Judge, being a technical lead for NSUF offers the best of both worlds. He gets to continue his research into materials irradiation, making use of some of the best resources in North America, and continues his relationships with the partners he first engaged at CNL. 

As a structural metallurgist for CNL, Judge ran the Canadian equivalent of MFC’s Irradiated Materials Characterization Laboratory (IMCL). In the study of fuels and cladding, Canadian heavy water reactors offer important information because their materials are extracted regularly, giving researchers the opportunity to quantify the effects of long-term irradiation as it progresses. As CNL’s relationship with NSUF developed, it offered an opportunity to add to NSUF’s library of materials.

“ATR (INL’s Advanced Test Reactor) can irradiate materials fast, but having end-of-life materials, the real thing, to baseline against is valuable,” Judge said.

While pursuing his research, Judge worked with the Electric Power Research Institute, developing extensive connections not only in the research community but with utilities in the United States. He met Jackson in 2010 at a meeting in Sun Valley, Idaho, on qualitative micro/nano mechanics. Jackson said he was impressed with Judge’s technical proficiency, also with his ability to communicate and build relationships. When Jackson took over for Dr. Rita Baranwal, who left GAIN to head DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, he recommended recruiting Judge, who was receptive to the overture.

Judge earned his doctorate in materials science and engineering from McMaster University in 2015. At Queen’s University, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s in mechanical and materials engineering, he studied under Professor Rick Holt, a leading authority on zirconium alloys, their mechanical behavior, radiation effects and in-service deformation.

As an undergraduate, he’d applied for a summer job working for Holt. As time was getting short, he stopped by Holt’s office to ask whether he’d gotten the job. Without looking up, Holt nodded, which Judge took for a yes.  A pivotal moment in his career, but to this day, he does not know if Holt knew who was at the door. “In life, it’s just a bunch of open doors, and you choose to walk through them,” he said. The decision to move to Idaho Falls represents another such door. “The capabilities that are here are amazing. It’s a dream for many researchers.”

Judge said he and his wife, Andrea, are amazed at how nice Idaho Falls is and the friendliness of the people. Coming from the Great White North, coping with winter won’t be a problem. “We enjoy the work-life balance, also the lab culture,” he said. “I see a lot of people who are passionate about science and the lab programs.”