Of all the major challenges facing society today, nuclear security is one of the most pressing. That fact, along with the desire to enable safe and peaceful uses of nuclear energy, guide the research of Igor Jovanovic, who joins the U-M NERS faculty in January 2016 as professor.
“Nuclear technologies have the potential for dual use,” said Jovanovic. “In order to continue to explore their potential for advancing humanity, we have to think very hard about how to decouple peaceful uses from those for the purpose of war or terrorism.”
Jovanovic’s work focuses on two types of technologies to improve nuclear security: radiation detection and lasers and optics. In the area of radiation detection, he is developing advanced detectors and active interrogation methods. More specifically, he is working on detectors for fast neutrons as well as antineutrinos for monitoring nuclear reactors.
In the area of lasers and optics, he has been developing new methods to accelerate charged particles for the active interrogation of nuclear materials and also works on spectroscopic methods for characterizing materials at a distance and in-situ.
After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Zagreb in Croatia, Jovanovic earned a PhD in nuclear engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. He did his dissertation research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
“Working there very much defined my path,” Jovanovic said. “Lawrence Livermore is a place that champions both the technologies I work on — radiation detectors and optics and lasers. While I was there, I strived to bring together the best ideas from each to address nuclear security challenges. Since then, a multidisciplinary approach has been a defining characteristic of my work.”
Lawrence Livermore was also where Jovanovic first mentored students and made the decision to pursue a career in academia. The first summer student he hired, Shaun Clarke, is now an associate research scientist in the NERS department.
Jovanovic went on to faculty positions at Purdue University and Penn State University. While at Penn State, he made another U-M connection, through the Consortium for Verification Technology (CVT). His contributions to the CVT have centered on optical spectroscopic methods for characterizing nuclear materials in the field.
At U-M, Jovanovic will continue working with the CVT. He also will work with the Center for Ultrafast Optical Science, direct the Neutron Science Laboratory and will establish a research lab in the new Nuclear Engineering Laboratory building.
He is looking forward to getting started in January. “U-M is an ideal match for my interests. It’s the epicenter for research in radiation detection — it has been for decades — and also for optics and lasers. It’s rare to find that combination at the same institution.”