A prospering partnership
In September of 2011, Y-12 and the University of Tennessee signed a Joint Assignment Agreement, the first of its kind for an NNSA production site, to allow for the formal exchange of key personnel. Today, both sites are reaping the benefits of this unique partnership, which brings valuable expertise to Y-12 in a variety of disciplines while providing unique educational and research opportunities for UT students and faculty. Below are a few examples of recent successes.
Dr. James Bradshaw has taken advantage of the Y-12/UT partnership in a number of ways — as a researcher, student and now teacher.
In mid-2011, Bradshaw used the partnership’s mechanisms to bring a chemistry PhD candidate, Jennifer Charlton, on-site to help conduct a research project that optimized chemical processes and developed instrumentation to analyze a massive number of soil, water and surface samples following a nuclear event.
“When the UTK/Y-12 MOU was announced, I jumped on the opportunity to get involved and acquire a full-time graduate student,” Bradshaw said. “Our automation project was completed successfully, and we are speaking with a number of DOE sites about sharing our knowledge.”
In the midst of that collaboration, Bradshaw took over as Division Manager for the Technical Support & Development group in Analytical Chemistry and also was selected to participate in UT’s ProMBA program, receiving his new degree last December. More recently, he was appointed assistant professor (adjunct) in UT’s Chemistry Department, where he’ll teach graduate-level classes as his schedule permits.
“Having a very formal science background has benefitted my career in many ways, but I feel the MBA program gives me the ability to provide significant benefit back to my employer,” Bradshaw said. “And, now having formal affiliation with both institutions, I am able to identify areas where graduate students may be a more cost-effective option to perform certain research efforts.”
The Visual Asset Library
When Y-12 Communications Services discovered a need to better store and maintain digital image files, they turned to the UT College of Communication and Information, and Natalie Hansen, for help. Initially, Hansen came to Y-12 as a graduate research assistant to develop the site’s Visual Asset Library, a digital asset management and archive system.
“VAL is a digital library for video, graphics and photographs that will allow people to type in search words and quickly retrieve Multimedia Services’ products,” Hansen said. “It will basically be like Google for Y-12’s images.”
Hansen was recently hired full-time as a digital archivist with Communications Services. She credits the Y-12/UT Partnership with giving her the opportunity and experience to fill that role.
“I get to help the VAL team build a whole library from scratch,” she said. “Most digital archivists don’t get that chance, let alone graduate students. Coming to Y-12 was a huge opportunity for me.”
Hansen also has served as a catalyst for further collaborations between Communications Services and UT’s CCI. Graduate student Chelsea Williamson-Barnwell is finishing her second practicum semester at Y-12, where she’s getting real-world experience in scanning historical images and encoding metadata for them. In addition, Hansen’s former advisor, Dr. Suzie Allard, recently signed a JAA with Y-12 and comes on-site once a month to explore opportunities for the two sites to collaborate on other major projects.
Dr. Rapinder “Rupy” Sawhney is a professor and Heath Endowed Fellow in Business and Engineering in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. He was instrumental in Y-12’s efforts to create a master’s program in engineering management for employees, which will see its third cohort of students graduate this May. In addition, he recently signed a JAA and spends one day a week at Y-12 assisting with issues and challenges related to industrial systems design.
“The idea behind me coming here is really to build relationships,” Sawhney said. “By meeting and talking with people and understanding issues, we’ll be better able to work together to solve problems.”
His current project is a proposed seminar for Y-12 on how to reduce inventory systems and their associated costs. “In general, most systems have a lot more parts than they need, and they frequently have the wrong parts altogether,” Sawhney noted. “This seminar could help Y-12 create more efficient, reliable, and effective systems.”
Through his involvement with the graduate degree program and his Wednesdays at Y-12, Sawhney hopes to use his industrial engineering expertise to help the site in any way he can.
“Y-12’s goal is working smarter and that means collaborating and leveraging the intellectual capital of the University of Tennessee and Y-12 for the benefit of both organizations. UTK has outstanding faculty and students; Y-12 has outstanding employees plus unmatched depths of experience in a variety of areas,” said Ben Stephens, Academic Partnerships manager. “It’s a great match that will only get better!”