Sandia LabNews

Youssef Marzouk, Gregory Nielson named Sandia's first Truman Fellows

Youssef Marzouk, Gregory Nielson named Sandia’s first Truman Fellows

Two Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) postdoctoral students have been selected as the first recipients of the President Harry S. Truman Research Fellowship in National Security Science and Engineering at Sandia.

Youssef Marzouk and Gregory Nielson were selected after an intensive nationwide search. The Truman Fellowship is the only position at Sandia where the candidate proposes a research project, presents it, and, when selected, gets to do it for the next three years.

"We are indeed fortunate to have selected Youssef Marzouk and Gregory Nielson as Sandia Truman Fellows," says Sandia’s Chief Technology Officer Pace VanDevender (1000). "Youssef and Gregory set a strong precedent for excellence as the first class of Truman Fellows. They will work with other engineers and scientists at both the New Mexico and California sites as corporate-wide fellows addressing the national security challenges of the new century."

Truman Fellowship candidates are expected to have solved a major scientific or engineering problem in their thesis work or have provided a new approach or insight to a major problem, as evidenced by a recognized impact in their field. Youssef will be working in Reacting Flow Research Dept. 8351 at Sandia/California, and Gregory will be in MEMS Device Technologies Dept. 1769 at Sandia/ New Mexico. Their work is funded by Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD).

Youssef received his bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees from MIT. He was the recipient of the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowship. He received the Young Researcher Fellowship Award at the MIT Computational Fluid and Solid Mechanics conference, and was the recipient of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship. Recently, he was awarded the Joseph H. Keenan Prize for outstanding graduate student in the thermal sciences at MIT. His research experience includes work at the MIT Reacting Gas Dynamics Laboratory, the MIT Fluid Mechanics Laboratory, and the Sandia/California Combustion Research Facility. He also did research at Washington University and at the Monsanto Company in St. Louis. Youssef says he excited to be joining Sandia as a Truman Fellow, and particularly excited to be chosen for the program’s first year.

"This will be a great opportunity to enhance my technical skills, establish collaborations with excellent people working on meaningful projects, and extend my research into new areas," Youssef says. "I look forward to working with members of the technical staff and contributing to the research environment at Sandia."

His research at Sandia will focus on Bayesian inference for inverse problems and optimization, with applications to fluid dynamics, source inversion, and gene regulatory networks.

"I would like to establish a strong program of fundamental, mostly computational research on thermofluid and biological systems," Youssef says.

Gregory received his bachelor’s degree from Utah State University, and his master’s and PhD from MIT. He has received numerous scholarships and awards including an MIT Entrepreneurship Competition Award, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and the Sandia Technology Transfer Merit Award. His research experience includes graduate work at MIT designing optical microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) devices as a PhD candidate, and studying and applying micro-scale plasticity material models as a master student. He has also conducted research at Sandia’s Parallel Computing Sciences Department and at Utah State University.

Gregory’s research project at Sandia will be a continuation of his doctoral research. As part of his thesis, he invented and developed the theory for a completely new actuation technique for MEMS switches that will allow switching speeds 10 to 1,000 times faster than current MEMS devices.

The new actuation technique also reduces the voltage and energy required for switching. For example, currently the fastest RF (radio frequency) MEMS switch operates at about one microsecond and needs 70 volts for actuation. His technique will allow an RF MEMS switch that switches in 100 nanoseconds and uses less than 10 volts.

While at Sandia, he will implement and refine the actuation technique and then apply it to both RF and optical MEMS switches. "One thing that I really like about the fellowship is that it gives me the opportunity to independently pursue research in an environment of world-class researchers," says Gregory. "As a Truman Fellow I’ll be able to pursue research that I’m really excited about at a place that is particularly well-suited to supporting the research. I wouldn’t be overstating it by calling it a dream job for me."

The Truman Fellowship provides the opportunity for recipients to pursue independent research of their own choosing that supports the national security mission of Sandia. The appointees are expected to foster creativity and to stimulate exploration of forefront science and technology and high-risk, potentially high-value R&D.

"We senior scientists and engineers on the Truman Fellowship selection committee are extremely pleased with the outcome," says Ron Loehman (1843), chair of the selection committee. Attracting such exceptional young scientists to Sandia makes all the time we spent in the reviews and interviews worthwhile. I expect Youssef and Greg to make important contributions to Sandia during their time here."