Monday, June 17, 2024
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Tech Working With Tennessee Valley Corridor On Future

Tennessee Tech working alongside the Tennessee Valley Corridor (TVC) to build on the technology expertise between Oak Ridge and Huntsville, Alabama.

Tennessee Tech Chief Government Affairs Officer Terry Saltsman said the TVC is an organization that collaborates with many different companies, universities, and laboratories to benefit the region. Saltsman said the school’s work with the TVC has allowed the school to focus its efforts on what Tennessee’s future labor force needs.

“Not long ago, our largest department on campus was mechanical engineering,” Saltsman said. “Today it’s computer science, just from the efforts that have come out of the Tennessee Valley Corridor, working with Oak Ridge, working with Huntsville, and generating ideas at these meetings.”

Saltsman said faculty from the university participate in research efforts coordinated by the TVC. He said the fields they are currently researching include cybersecurity, nuclear engineering, and sustainable energy technology.

“We’ve gone from a typical security effort on network to gig security, and now we’re looking toward quantum security as networks transition toward quantum networking,” Saltsman said. “Also, computers have changed. We’ve gone from the small desktop notebooks to now we’re having to perform very sensitive cybersecurity for supercomputers that have so – a vast amount of data in the petabytes arena, and even more.”

Saltsman said Tennessee Tech’s decision to start a nuclear engineering program was influenced by the TVC.

“We need nuclear engineers to work in what is going to be fourth and fifth generation nuclear reactors,” Saltsman said. “The backbone of the reactor force that’s coming online now are going to be third generation, but we’re already working on the next two.”

Saltsman said the research on sustainable engineering is focused on finding energy sources we can use other than kinds like coal and nuclear.

“A lot of work being done on: how do you enhance solar to make it more efficient?” Saltsman said. “How do you enhance wind energy? How do you enhance thermal energy that’s coming out of the ground?”

Saltsman said the organization also has a positive economic effect on the local people living in the area.

“People flock,” Saltsman said. “People with master’s degrees and PhDs, great salary jobs, they come to work these efforts, and they stay in these communities, so the money that they generate and the efforts toward the economy that they generate stays right here in Tennessee, stays right there in northern Alabama.”

Saltsman said the TVC was originally started by Lamar Alexander when he was the governor of Tennessee.

“What he was trying to do was find an organization that would promote and enhance the ability of companies around the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to not only work with the lab, but work with each other, sort of form a synergy of really smart people to do really great things for Tennessee,” Saltsman said.

Saltsman said the organization has grown over the years and now has a presence from southern Virginia to Huntsville, Alabama. He said it has taken in almost every research university in the area.

“Not only do you have the synergy with the companies that are doing research and working for these labs and working for the defense and NASA groups in Huntsville, but you’ve brought in the universities as well, so it’s a three-way effort with – between the labs and the companies and the universities,” Saltsman said.