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Student Achievement Logan Burnett April 26, 2024

Logan Burnett presenting his MIT research at the Gulf Coast Undergraduate Research Symposium.As I prepare to graduate this month, I look back on my University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) experience with a deep sense of gratitude and pride. My name is Logan Alexander Burnett, and I am from McCalla, Alabama. I will be graduating with a B.S. in Physics and minors in Mechanical Engineering, Chemistry, and Mathematics. During my time at UAB, I have had the opportunity to pursue cutting-edge research and make lifelong connections with my peers and professors. I hope to share my journey and express how much my time in Birmingham has meant to me.

Starting the summer after my sophomore year, I began performing research in the field of computational condensed matter physics with Dr. Cheng-Chien Chen. Dr. Chen and I immediately clicked, and I began learning the ropes of density functional theory as fast as I could. After a few months, I was ready to tackle a true research project, and with Dr. Chen’s help I began working on what would eventually become my first paper and undergraduate thesis. That was nearly two years ago, and we submitted my first-author paper for publication just this past month. Outside the Department of Physics, I began looking for opportunities to expose myself to high-energy, nuclear research at UAB as I had developed an intense passion for nuclear energy through some of my physics coursework. After sending a few emails, I found myself at the UAB Cyclotron Facility working under Dr. Suzanne Lapi and her graduate student, Shelbie Cingoranelli. While it may not be for everyone, I loved the idea of doing research in two fields at once, especially when I got to see the connections between condensed matter physics and cyclotron irradiation techniques.

Through my work with Dr. Chen and Dr. Lapi, I was able to develop a strong CV and research background that landed me an internship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for the summer after my junior year. During Summer 2023, I performed research in the Nuclear Science and Engineering department at MIT under Dr. Emilio Baglietto, and I met fellow student researchers from every corner of the planet. Throughout this process I realized I wanted to turn my passion for nuclear energy into a career.

Now, as my time at UAB comes to a close, I am preparing to graduate with four published papers and will begin my graduate studies as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, the No. 1 nuclear engineering program in the U.S. My research will be focusing on the development of artificial intelligence (AI) digital twins to autonomously operate the next generation of advanced nuclear reactors. I am very passionate about supporting microreactor development as they have the potential to accelerate the deployment of nuclear energy not only in the U.S., but also in remote parts of the world that otherwise lack access to an energy grid. However, none of this would be possible without my time at UAB. Countless mentors and friendships have helped me realize the importance of a strong support structure. That’s where I believe the difference lies at UAB, especially in the Department of Physics. Having multiple faculty rooting for my success is something I found unique to our department. While I met plenty of people at MIT who were from notoriously prestigious universities, none of them had the same support network I’ve witnessed in UAB Physics. Rather than being diffused into a huge department, I’ve had the opportunity to know each of my professors on a personal level and develop connections that will last a lifetime. I firmly believe UAB was the best place I could have chosen to pursue my undergraduate degree, and I can’t wait to see where else my experiences here will take me.

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