Nuclear engineering Ph.D. student wins Roy G. Post Foundation Scholarship

Dimitris Killinger (B.S.’15) , a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering, has received a Roy G. Post Foundation Scholarship for 2020. He is one of eight graduate-level recipients selected internationally for this award, which recognizes students with outstanding research achievements in safe management of nuclear materials.

Killinger’s research focuses on developing new methods to improve nuclear waste characterization and accountability. He is one of relatively few doctoral students in the field working on coupling laser-based and electrochemical techniques (also known as “spectroelectrochemistry”) with materials science and characterization to decrease the cost of processing used nuclear fuel. When perfected, this approach will bring about a more sustainable fuel cycle, one of the strategic goals of the U.S. Department of Energy.  

“The techniques we are using in our research can also be used in molten salt reactors,” Killinger said. “In other words, we could potentially use this concept both for the management of nuclear waste and for monitoring molten salt reactors. This would promote efficient operation in the two stages of the nuclear fuel cycle and double up as an accountability measure for safeguarded nuclear material.”

Supathorn Phongikaroon, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering and VCU’s director of nuclear engineering programs, is Killinger’s doctoral adviser.  

“Dimitris’ research is extraordinary,” Phongikaroon said. “His research topic is unusual, and that sets him apart from many other talented graduate students. He is also extremely hardworking and very active in the department. I’m sure all of these factors impressed the Roy G. Post Foundation.”

Killinger said a lot of the credit also goes to others.

“Thank you to my friends and family, and of course to my adviser for always pushing me to be better every day,” Killinger said. “This award is a testament to what a good support system can bring about. This is especially true when a student’s department is supportive.”

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