September 7, 2022 NSF honors outstanding grad student researcher Written By: Adam Malecek Departments: Engineering Physics Categories Awards|Students Nuclear engineering and engineering physics graduate student Sam Garcia received a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship in 2022. Garcia’s research focuses on multiphysics modeling of nuclear microreactors. He looks at different designs for microreactors and creates simulations to see how they perform in different conditions. “This is useful since we can take real-life experimental data that was done previously, the most notable being the systems for nuclear auxiliary power space-based microreactors, and try to model the exact same conditions to see if the outcomes match,” Garcia says. “By using a code that is known to be quality-assured, we can validate the experimental results.” This work can enable researchers to use newer codes that allow for faster reactor modeling, which can reduce some of the research and development costs of reactor design. “Additionally, having a working model of a reactor can help give estimates of its efficiencies, manufacturing capabilities and overall market performance,” says Garcia, who is a member of Engineering Physics Assistant Professor Ben Lindley’s research group. “This is all in the pursuit to make nuclear an energy source that is mobile, safe and profitable.” Garcia, who earned his bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering from UW-Madison in 2021, says he appreciates that the fellowship promotes diversity and inclusion, which are reflected in the statistics of awardees. “Any program or fellowship that promotes the growth of students in underrepresented communities is tantamount to promoting the growth of the field itself,” he says. “To this end, I also feel that the engineering physics department has done an excellent job facilitating my development as a scientist and engineer through a diverse community of students and faculty. With open doors, friendly communication and top-notch education, I am extremely proud and happy to be continuing my graduate studies here at UW-Madison.” The NSF fellowship recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in STEM fields. Fellows receive three years of financial support through a $37,000 annual stipend and a $12,000 education allowance.