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Alyssa Hayes Nabs October’s Nuclear Engineering Student Service Award

Alyssa Hayes sits on top of a spent fuel dry cask.

Alyssa Hayes sits on top of a spent fuel dry cask at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in California, where she recently took a tour to learn about reactor decommissioning.

PhD candidate Alyssa Hayes has taken her passion for nuclear engineering beyond the confines of the classroom and into the political sphere. In addition to working toward enhancing the department’s culture of diversity and inclusion, she has devoted much of her time at UT to advocating for nuclear energy policy at the federal level, and has even testified to the Illinois state legislature to help save nuclear energy in the state’s clean energy policy.

She is the latest recipient of the department’s Nuclear Engineering Student Service Award, which was established to support important services and to encourage continued leadership and excellence.

The department’s Honors and Awards Committee, comprised of UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair for Nuclear Materials Steven Zinkle, John D. Tickle Professor Lawrence Heilbronn, Assistant Professor Vlad Sobes, Zinkle Fellow and Associate Professor David Donovan, and Professional Advisor Amanda Lovelace, said that Hayes’s leadership within the UT Chapter of the American Nuclear Society (ANS) was notable.

“Alyssa has provided enormous help to our American Nuclear Society (ANS) UT Student Chapter in preparing their proposal to host the national ANS Student Conference for 2023,” said the committee in its recognition. “She utilized her own significant experience working with student organizations as an undergraduate and graduate student while also working to ensure that our priorities to encourage diversity, equity, and inclusion are reflected in the conference proposal.”

The proposal was successful. ANS announced earlier this month that UT will host the 2023 student conference.

Hayes clearly enjoys being able to make an impact.

“We make the most effective progress when we work as a team,” she said. “Last year, the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Action Committee became a leader for the Tickle College of Engineering, inspiring other departments to commit to progress.”

She said she was “blown away” by the dedication that the undergraduate leadership displayed while writing the ANS Student Conference Proposal.

Hayes attributes her successful advocacy efforts to mentorship from Alan Medsker, a nuclear policy advocate based in Illinois, and Generation Atomic, a non-profit nuclear advocacy organization where Medsker serves as a steering committee member. Hayes is currently working with fashion model and nuclear energy influencer Isabelle Boemeke, Mothers for Nuclear, and Generation Atomic on a rally to save clean energy near Diablo Canyon National Power Plant in California.

Four awards will be distributed to both undergraduate and graduate students each academic semester.