October 28, 2022

Congressman Castro Secures $1.7 Million for UTSA to Train Next Generation of Nuclear Science and Nonproliferation Policy Leaders

SAN ANTONIO – Today, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) announced that his office secured $1,749,997 in federal funding for the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) to train the next generation of nuclear security science and technology leaders through the Consortium on Nuclear Security Technologies (CONNECT) program. These funds, awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy, will help UTSA recruit and retain students interested in nuclear science, engineering, and nonproliferation policy and strengthen the pipeline for underrepresented scientists to serve their country at U.S. national laboratories.

“Since I was elected, my work in Congress has focused on expanding what I call the Infrastructure of Opportunity — the great public schools and universities, good-paying jobs, and community services that help San Antonians achieve their dreams,” said Congressman Castro. “This grant funding will strengthen opportunities for aspiring scientists and engineers to address complex nuclear challenges and put their skills to work at our national labs. The CONNECT program is essential to our national security, and I’m proud that San Antonio’s universities continue to build pathways for students of all backgrounds to pursue a career in STEM and lead our nation.”

"The continued support by the Department of Energy for this program strengthens our future-focused efforts to support diverse students in our STEM programs at UTSA and collaborating institutions. We are recruiting and engaging students interested in not only nuclear science and engineering but also nuclear and nonproliferation policy. By advancing these students to graduation, we aim to strategically increase our student presence and leadership at U.S. national laboratories and foster collaborative, multi-disciplinary faculty research programs beyond the life of the funding," said Dr. Kelly Nash, the founding principal investigator of this award. 

With the successful renewal of CONNECT, Dr. Elizabeth Sooby will become the principal investigator and lead the consortium for the next five years. 

“Through CONNECT, we are offering our students direct access to cutting edge research opportunities, which we hope will help them establish long and productive careers in nuclear science and engineering. We have built and continue to strengthen a pipeline from our institution and our collaborating MSIs to the leading laboratories in fissionable fuels, forensics, and computational science, places such as Los Alamos National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory whose facilities are technically unmatched globally. We are also offering new courses and professional development curriculum to better prepare our students, thereby enhancing retention and ensuring their success in their DOE laboratory careers,” added Dr. Sooby. 

Established in the Fall of 2019, CONNECT is a student-focused program led by UTSA in collaboration with partners at St. Mary’s University, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory. CONNECT forms a cross-disciplinary network of faculty, scientists and engineers to support the nuclear security research and professional development efforts of over 50 students across these three institutions. Students studying physics, computer science, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering, among other disciplines, receive an opportunity to work on interdisciplinary research and network with experts in the nuclear science field.

CONNECT has a retention rate of 86 percent, with 56 percent of participants identifying as underrepresented minorities, and has provided funding for two postdoctoral fellows, 21 graduate students, and 32 undergraduate students. 

For more information on the CONNECT program, click here.