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Nuclear engineering professor selected for NRC Distinguished Faculty Advancement Program

August 15, 2023 - by Kim Delker

photo: Eric Lang
Eric Lang

Eric Lang, an assistant professor in the Department of Nuclear Engineering at UNM, is the beneficiary of a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) program to encourage his professional development as a faculty member.

The NRC Distinguished Faculty Advancement Program provides support to enable newer pre-tenured faculty to enhance their careers as professors and researchers in the university department where they are employed. Lang will receive $600,000 from the program to be used for his research and professional development. In addition, UNM is providing $100,000 in matching funds.

Hank Lee, chair of the Department of Nuclear Engineering, is the principal investigator of this project and will help oversee Lang’s development, working alongside the existing faculty mentoring groups in the department.

“Eric is clearly a rising star with a bright future ahead of him,” Lee said.

The NRC Distinguished Faculty Advancement Program provides funding to support faculty advancement in nuclear science, engineering, technology, health physics, nuclear fusion (fusion energy research) and related disciplines to develop a workforce capable of supporting the design, construction, operation and regulation of nuclear facilities, as well as the safe handling of nuclear materials. The program seeks to attract and retain highly qualified individuals early in their academic teaching careers.

“This award is a great opportunity to expand the nuclear engineering research and education opportunities at UNM. It is an honor UNM was selected for the award,” Lang said.

Lang joined UNM in fall 2022 after spending time at Sandia National Laboratories as a postdoctoral researcher. This summer, he became the lead on two U.S. Department of Energy Nuclear Energy University Programs totaling more than $1 million: one project that will investigate the use of yttrium hydride to slow down neutrons in microreactors, and the other to procure and install equipment in the existing hot cell of the UNM nuclear reactor.

Lang’s research interests are on interrogating materials under extreme environments with a focus on utilizing ion beam irradiation and small-scale mechanical testing to understand material performance for the development of next-generation nuclear reactors, with an emphasis on fusion reactor materials. His experimental research will explore advanced materials to study radiation tolerance with an emphasis on in situ material evaluation and advanced characterization to decipher the fundamental irradiation-induced mechanisms dictating material performance.