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Advanced composites expert named UT-ORNL Governor's chair

News International-French

15 Jun 2015

The position of the University of Tennessee, 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.

"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 one of the global leaders 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.

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