Research News

Vanderbilt graduate researcher awarded prestigious $161,000 U.S. Department of Energy grant

Irfan Ibrahim

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy has awarded an Integrated University Program fellowship grant of $161,000 to environmental engineering graduate research assistant Irfan Ibrahim to further his work on nuclear reactor safety. The office’s awards provide 50 scholarships and 31 fellowships for nuclear scientists and engineers at 35 colleges and universities in 23 states.

Ibrahim’s research involves supporting safety and reliability assessments of advanced nuclear reactors. Specifically, his work supports early-stage risk analyses of molten salt reactors, which show promise as efficient and reliable sources of carbon-free electricity. MSRs are built with technology and components that require rigorous analysis.

“I’m extremely humbled to be chosen as a recipient of this prestigious fellowship. It will enable me to pursue very important and cutting-edge research, and to collaborate with some of the brightest minds in my field,” Ibrahim said. “I’m honored that I can represent Vanderbilt University in this capacity, and this fellowship will certainly help me pursue my academic and career goals.”

Steven Krahn (Vanderbilt University)

“These DOE-NE Fellowships are very flexible. Here at Vanderbilt, they allow our students to pursue applied research in risk assessment of advanced nuclear technologies to explore the safety and environmental impacts of new concepts,” said Steven Krahn, professor of the practice of nuclear environmental engineering and the grant’s principal investigator.

The fellowship provides funding to help pay for graduate studies and research and $5,000 to fund an internship at a Department of Energy National Laboratory or other approved research facility to strengthen the ties between students and DOE’s energy research programs.

“It’s an honor to represent Nashville and what most people call the ‘Athens of the South’ because of our awesome universities here,” said U.S. Representative Jim Cooper in a release. “I’m glad this funding is going to students who are doing groundbreaking research to advance society and build our future.”

This success follows Vanderbilt’s being awarded a 10-year contract from the Integrated University Program, which is managed by the Department of Energy-Idaho Operations Office. This award pre-qualifies Vanderbilt to compete for future department funding. Vanderbilt had won two earlier research awards from the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, totaling $1.6 million.

Ibrahim is the fourth Vanderbilt graduate student to be awarded an Integrated University Program fellowship grant in seven years; prior awardees are Timothy Ault (Ph.D., ENVE, ’17), Brandon Chisholm (Ph.D., ENVE, ’20) and current Ph.D. candidate Megan Harkema.