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Global learning collaboration: International researchers, visitors connect at INL

July 10, 2023

By Emi Walker

Idaho National Laboratory’s International Researcher and Visitor Program drives cross-cultural exchange and promotes collaboration with worldwide scientists and academia inspiring creativity within INL’s scientific community. This program has enabled INL to bring several distinguished researchers and scientists to the lab to participate in vital programs and projects. 

For several years, Idaho National Laboratory has partnered with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to bring nuclear doctoral students and their professors from United Kingdom universities to the U.S. for professional development and networking. After a pause due to COVID, visits restarted last September, with 17 students and faculty from Bangor University, Imperial College London, University of Bristol and University of Cambridge. The second group visited INL May 8 and 9 and had 20 members from five British universities: University of Liverpool, University of Manchester, Lancaster University, University of Sheffield and University of Leeds. 

University of Liverpool, University of Manchester, Lancaster University, University of Sheffield and University of Leeds doctoral students and faculty at TREAT

These visits provide information about U.S. programs, capabilities and facilities, and help the students develop their professional networks and identify opportunities for collaboration with American organizations. Those organizations include the Department of Energy Nuclear Energy University Programs, Nuclear Science User Facilities, INL’s internships and postdoctoral programs and more.  

William Beaven, a doctoral student at University of Manchester, had the opportunity to see research fields not directly related to his doctoral studies and got insight into areas, equipment and techniques that he was unaware of. “The highlight for me was seeing the working hot cells (at the Materials and Fuels Complex) and looking down on to the spent fuel in the canal at the (Advanced Test Reactor) site. Additionally, the countless discussions with staff members were highly valuable networking and learning opportunities,” Beaven said. 

“Visiting Idaho National Laboratory has profoundly changed my view of laboratories in the United States and my perspective on my future career,” said Federico Peruzzini, a doctoral student at University of Liverpool. “The vastness of the facilities, the impressive scientific research underway, and the level of commitment and dedication from the staff have opened my eyes to the extraordinary potential of this laboratory promoting technological innovation and scientific advancement. This has inspired me to consider career paths that can have a significant impact on society,” Peruzzini said. 

UK doctoral students and faculty at ATR

Andrew Worrall, U.K. country coordinator for DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy and section head of the Integrated Fuel Cycle at Oak Ridge, is the liaison between the two U.S. labs and U.K. universities. He organized and escorted both groups of visitors. INL will welcome the next cohort of British scholars in September. 

The U.K. visits were one of many international collaborations at INL. The Department of Energy’s Visitor Program provides value to INL’s scientific community by encouraging research from diverse perspectives and fostering collaboration with researchers around the world. For over 40 years, this program has enabled DOE to bring researchers and scientists to the U.S. to participate in programs and projects at the national laboratories and DOE program offices. 

The exchange visitor program is part of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, also known as the Fulbright-Hayes Act. The purpose of the Fulbright-Hayes Act is to increase communal understanding between the people of the United States and other countries through educational and cultural exchanges. 

Rafael Garcia
Rafael Garcia, Brazilian nuclear fuel postdoctoral researcher at the Nuclear and Energy Research Institute in São Paulo, Brazil.

One of the international researchers who recently visited INL was Rafael Garcia, a Brazilian nuclear fuel postdoctoral researcher at the Nuclear and Energy Research Institute in São Paulo, Brazil. Garcia was awarded a grant from the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development to come to INL as part of the lab’s International Researcher program. Garcia has a doctorate degree in nuclear technology from University of São Paulo and is working with the Advanced Characterization group at the Materials and Fuels Complex. “The lab is fully equipped. State-of-the-art facilities. And the maintenance work is incomparable to Brazil, where it takes more time to get the equipment repaired,” Garcia said. 

INL has partnered with the Korea Nuclear International Cooperation Foundation (KONICOF) for many years to bring students from South Korea to the lab to complete this internship. The KONICOF internship provides a wide range of opportunities for students to develop their professional skills and acquire practical work experience in an international environment. INL’s current KONICOF international researcher is Jisuk Kim, who works at in the Human Factors and Reliability Department.  

Jisuk Kim
Jisuk Kim, KONICOF international researcher

KONICOF provides global internships, scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships, giving nuclear experts valuable opportunities to gain experience at overseas institutions. Kim feels fortunate to receive support through the Global Postdoctoral Fellowships. “It’s fascinating that in the United States there is a strong emphasis on not only safety but also economic viability within the nuclear industry. This aspect has broadened my thinking and exposed me to new ideas. I look forward to embracing these experiences and leveraging them to enhance my understanding of the nuclear field,” Kim said.  

“INL is impacting the world’s energy future through these international partnerships,” said Monica Towner, INL Visiting Scholar and International Researchers liaison. “Collaborating with and learning from our international partners is beneficial on all fronts. We look forward to both new and continued strategic partnerships with other global entities.”  

The lab wasn’t the only highlight of the visit. “The area surrounding Idaho Falls is a breathtaking display of natural beauty. From the majestic snowy mountains to the rivers and clear lakes, the landscape is a paradise for nature enthusiasts,” Peruzzini said. 

For more information about international researchers at INL, contact Monica Towner or go to NUP website. 

About Idaho National Laboratory

Battelle Energy Alliance manages INL for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. INL is the nation’s center for nuclear energy research and development, celebrating 75 years of scientific innovations in 2024. The laboratory performs research in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and the environment. 

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Posted July 10, 2023

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