Mechanical and nuclear engineering professor receives $5 million Department of Energy grant

DOE’s RENEW initiative supports 40 minority-serving institutions to build a diverse STEM workforce.

Braden Goddard, Ph.D.
Braden Goddard, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Isotope R&D and Production (DOE Isotope Program) has awarded Braden Goddard, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering, a $5 million grant over the next five years through the DOE Office of Science’s Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce (RENEW) initiative.

The award will fund the project Minority Serving Institutions for Manufacturing Sustainable Isotopes and Mainstreaming Scientific Inclusion (MSI3), which will focus on evaluating multiple methods of isotope production with a goal of developing a new, more efficient method.

Three Minority Serving Institutions – Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), Virginia State University (VSU), and Virginia Union University (VUU) – will form a consortium with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to train 70 undergraduate and graduate students in all aspects related to isotope production.

“Ensuring that research funding is coupled to student development and training is vital to meeting the future workforce needs of isotope production science,” Goddard said.

Joining Goddard as principle investigators for this grant are Jessika Rojas, Ph.D., from VCU, Supathorn Phongikaroon, Ph.D., from VCU, Grace Ndip, Ph.D., from VSU, Narbe Kalantarians, Ph.D., from VUU, Stacy Queern, Ph.D., from ORNL, and Clarice Phelps from ORNL.

The students participating in the project will be financially supported to do the research, and each student will develop their own project to present by themselves at a national scientific conference.

“This will not only help students graduate with little to no debt, but it will also develop skills in them that are not usually developed through coursework,” said Goddard.

The RENEW award is among $70 million in DOE funding to support research by historically underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and to diversify leadership in the physical sciences.

“This large grant highlights the capabilities of the College of Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University and shows to our peer institutions the important work that is being done by our faculty,” Goddard said.