KNOXVILLE—The position of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and Oak Ridge National Laboratory as leaders in the manufacturing revolution has taken another bold step forward with the hiring of Uday Vaidya as the Governor’s Chair in Advanced Composites Manufacturing.
Vaidya becomes the 14th UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair and the seventh devoted to some aspect of advanced manufacturing, underscoring the importance of this research and the role of the two institutes in it.
“We are pleased to welcome Uday and the leadership he brings in the growing area of advanced composites manufacturing,” said UT Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek. “His research will contribute to the vital building blocks we have with ORNL and our momentum as leaders in the field.”
“This is a significant opportunity to provide leadership and serve as a bridge between UT, ORNL, industry and academic partners,” said Vaidya, who also will serve as a professor in UT’s Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering.
“The industry is in urgent need of trained engineers with comprehensive knowledge in the design, modeling and manufacturing of advanced materials—including composites—and many of those innovations are possible through a comprehensive ecosystem such as the one our institutions provide,” he said.
Vaidya, who comes from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, added that those innovations will help keep UT and ORNL at the forefront of research.
The work is also important to the economy of the United States and its position as a global leader in the automotive, energy, and aerospace industries, which are trending toward the use of lightweight yet durable carbon fiber construction.
Currently, producing such material in large quantities can be cost-prohibitive, but UT, ORNL, and the new Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation can make them more readily attainable, according to Vaidya.
“There is exponential growth of advanced composites both in the U.S. and around the world,” said Vaidya. “Between the Governor’s Chair program, some of the research already being conducted, and in particular IACMI, which President Obama announced in January, UT and ORNL are clearly going to play a leading role for years to come.
“The opportunity to serve as both a Governor’s Chair and with a leadership position with IACMI is incredibly exciting and truly phenomenal.”
That optimism for the future of advanced manufacturing and acknowledgment of the importance of the UT-ORNL relationship was echoed at both institutions.
“Uday’s unique combination of basic and applied research coupled with his strong industrial interactions will complement ORNL and UT’s strengths in carbon fiber and composites research and development,” said Martin Keller, ORNL’s associate lab director for energy and environmental sciences.
Taylor Eighmy, UT vice chancellor for research and engagement and co-chair of IACMI, said Uday’s leadership “is both welcome and important to our efforts in composites, especially around IACMI.”
“Moreover, he is our third Governor’s Chair in concert with ORNL in the very strategic area of advanced manufacturing—strategic for us, ORNL and for the state of Tennessee,” Eighmy said.
While the Governor’s Chair program is one of the more notable examples of collaboration between UT and ORNL, the two institutions also share partnerships, researchers and faculty at several locations, including the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Education and the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility.
Aside from his materials-related work, Vaidya said he is interested in engaging minority and underrepresented students in STEM fields and advanced manufacturing technologies.
Other joint UT-ORNL Governor’s Chairs are:
- Jeremy Smith, a computational biologist who came to UT and ORNL from the University of Heidelberg in Germany. He was appointed in 2006.
- Howard Hall, an expert in nuclear security who came to UT and ORNL from Lawrence Livermore National Lab. He was appointed in 2009.
- Yilu Liu, an electric grid researcher who came to UT and ORNL from Virginia Tech. She was appointed in 2009.
- Frank Loeffler, a biologist and environmental engineer who came to UT and ORNL from Georgia Tech. He was appointed in 2009.
- Alexei Sokolov, a polymer scientist who came to UT and ORNL from the University of Akron. He was appointed in 2009.
- Thomas Zawodzinski, an energy storage researcher who came to UT and ORNL from Case Western Reserve University. He was appointed in 2009.
- William Weber, a materials scientist who came to UT and ORNL from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. He was appointed in 2010.
- Brian Wirth, a radiation expert who came to UT and ORNL from the University of California, Berkeley. He was appointed in 2010.
- Terry Hazen, an environmental biologist who came to UT and ORNL from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He was appointed in 2011.
- Sudarsanam Suresh Babu, a materials scientist who came to UT and ORNL from The Ohio State University. He began his position in 2013.
- Steve Zinkle, a nuclear engineering and materials scientist who came to UT and ORNL from another position at ORNL. He began his position in 2013.
- Philip Enquist, a specialist in planning and energy-efficient design with the firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. He began his position in 2014.
- Arthur Ragauskas, an expert in biofuels, bioenergy and biorefining who came to UT and ORNL from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He began his position in 2014.