The award goes to students identified as having research in areas that the Office of Science deems critical for the nation and provides them research opportunities in a national lab while working on their thesis.
“I was thrilled to find out I had gotten the award,” said O’Quinn. “This is a great opportunity, both to continue doing my research and to work with our collaborators at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.”
A native of Alexandria, Louisiana, O’Quinn came to UT for graduate school after he and his wife fell in love with UT’s campus and the Knoxville area on a visit.
In the three years since that time, he has worked with Pietro F. Pasqua Fellow Maik Lang in the Department of Nuclear Engineering at UT.
O’Quinn’s work revolves around what are known as disordered materials, such as glasses and ceramics, that may have a more complex structure at the atomic level than previously thought.
Due to their design, such materials hold great promise for energy, including use in nuclear fuel and in fuel cells.
“We need to study and research them at the atomic level to gain an overall knowledge about their limitations and abilities,” said O’Quinn. “There’s so much cutting edge research being performed at UT, particularly in nuclear engineering. It’s great to see how what you do makes an impact.”
O’Quinn will spend his yearlong fellowship working under ORNL scientist Matthew Tucker, developing new ways of modeling the data he has collected.
The Office of Science funds the scholarship, with a monthly stipend and general expenses included.
This is the second consecutive year that a UT nuclear engineering student has received such an honor, with Jonah Duran having been chosen in 2017.