Alireza Haghighat has been recognized for his accomplishments in nuclear engineering by the American Nuclear Society, the premier organization focused on using the science to improve lives and preserve the planet. Haghighat, the Robert E. Hord, Jr. Endowed Professor in Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech, is director of the department's nuclear engineering program.

Haghighat received the Gerald C. Pomraning Memorial Award from the society's Mathematics and Computation Division. This prestigious award recognizes key contributions to the fields of mathematics and computation and their applications to the field of nuclear science and engineering.

Haghighat was selected for his seminal contributions to the development of high-fidelity computational deterministic, stochastic, and hybrid transport methods for application to complex nuclear systems; for the design of multimodal detection systems for monitoring and safeguards; for the development of the consistent adjoint-driven importance sampling technique for Monte Carlo variance reduction; and for his dedication to nuclear education.

In addition to directing the nuclear program, Haghighat also leads the Virginia Tech Theory Transport Group. Over the past 35 years, he and his students have developed novel particle transport methodologies and large computer codes for modeling and simulation of nuclear systems including reactors, nuclear security and safeguards systems, and medical devices. Their efforts have resulted in the development of several advanced computer programs including PENTRAN, A3MCNP, TITAN, INSPCT-s, AIMS, TITAN-IR, and RAPID.

Of particular note, RAPID is a code developed through a novel hybrid methodology for obtaining accurate high-fidelity solutions for complex problems on a single computer core in real time. To take advantage of virtual reality and immersive visualization for research, teaching, and training, Haghighat has led development of a virtual reality system framework and a web application for the RAPID code system.

Haghighat joined the Virginia Tech community in 2011 and was already an internationally known researcher, educator, and leader in the field of nuclear science and engineering. Under his leadership, the Virginia Tech nuclear engineering program has grown steadily.

Growth areas include:

  • A graduate certificate in collaboration with the Department of Science, Technology, and Society in the College of Liberals Arts and Human Sciences
  • An accelerated Master of Engineering in nuclear engineering for the U.S. Naval Academy
  • A semester abroad program for graduate students established under an memoranum of understanding with the Jozef Stefan Institute in Slovenia

Haghighat also has been a leader for the Virginia Nuclear Energy Consortium, a nonprofit organization that promotes advanced nuclear technology for carbon-free electricity generation in Virginia and beyond.

As a researcher, Haghighat has secured more than $4 million in grants during his time at Virginia Tech, with his total research funding exceeding $12 million in his academic career. He has published more than 280 papers, delivered 116 invited talks internationally, and mentored 42 graduate students, including 17 Ph.D. students. He also published two editions of a textbook titled “Monte Carlo Methods for Particle Transport” that is being used at several peer institutions nationally and internationally. His publications are highly cited, and novel particle transport methodologies developed by his group have helped simulate nuclear systems.

An active member of the American Nuclear Society (ANS), Haghighat has served in several leadership positions, including chair of the Nuclear Engineering Department Heads Organization, chair of the Mathematics and Computation Division, chair of the Reactor Physics Division, co-chair of Computational Medical Physics Working Group, and chair of the ANS 19.10 Standards Committee.

Haghighat is also a fellow of the American Nuclear Society. He received the 2011 Radiation Protection and Shielding Division Professional Excellence Award for his outstanding contributions to deterministic, Monte Carlo, and hybrid particle transport methods and codes. He was recognized in 2009 by the U.S. Department of Energy for his leadership and contributions to design and analysis for the University of Florida Training Reactor's HEU to LEU fuel conversion.

The Gerald C. Pomraning Memorial Award recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions toward the advancement of the fields of mathematics and computation in support of advancing the understanding of these topics of interest to the ANS membership.

Formal presentation will occur Aug. 13-17 at the International Conference on Mathematics and Computational Methods Applied to Nuclear Science and Engineering in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.

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