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Global Challenge; UT Answer

Some of UT’s top engineering students gained a helping hand this year in their quest to shape the world, all thanks to someone who was once in their position.

Through the support of Joe Cook (’65 ISE) and his wife, Judy, the Joseph C. and Judith E. Cook Grand Challenge Honors Program was created to help bring new perspectives, opportunities, and practical experiences for those select students.

Sarah Davis, a senior majoring in nuclear engineering, is a shining example.

Davis, who came to UT from Memphis, is honing her talents in confronting the grand challenges of Preventing Nuclear Terror and Engineering Better Medicine.

She spent this most recent summer at ORNL working in the Fusion Materials and Technology Applications department, where she tested the performance and reliability of nuclear power plant electrical cables. Understanding that component helps reduce costs, extends the lifetime of parts, and provides better security for the entire process.

“Once I got involved with this program I noticed I was pushing myself to do better and learn more, so that I could actually make an impact with my research,” Davis said. “I have taken interdisciplinary classes that I wouldn’t have normally chosen to, including presenting at an international conference in Washington, DC.”

Davis must soon decide what to focus on next, with nuclear instruction, nuclear security, and proton therapy for cancer research as possibilities.

For now, she’s sharing her experiences with the next generation of engineers this fall, fulfilling the service-learning component of the honors program by volunteering at Pond Gap Elementary in Knoxville. There, she will help teachers explain the possibilities and impact of engineering on students’ everyday lives.

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