AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) – A new research affiliate program at USC Aiken provides a way for active and retired scientists and engineers to collaborate with the school.

Past and present STEM professionals will have access to equipment and laboratories, and will be working with students and faculty on projects meant to develop the area.

“We’re very fortunate to be in a wonderful area that has so many DOE facilities, and industry and technical fields,” said Dr. Scott McKay, the dean of College of Science and Engineering at USC Aiken. “And we have all this wonderful experience out there that we can share with our students, so we just have a way to facilitate that.”

There are currently seven affiliates in the program who call it a win-win.

They will be able to mentor students, and possibly recruit them as interns or employees in the future.

They said this will help grow Aiken’s booming science and engineering landscape.

“We have Savannah River National Lab, which is a technology laboratory, we have the universities, and we have a great area for people to work and live here, the cost of living is less than many other places,” said Dr. Ragaiy Zidan, a research affiliate in the program. “So, that can really easily be a seed for a high-tech incubator area.”

Dr. Zidan is a retired scientist who used to work at the Savannah River National Laboratory and helped start its hydrogen program. 

He now helps run a renewable energy company and is looking forward to passing down some of his knowledge.

“If they like it and we like them, then they stay working with us,” Dr. Zidan said. “Now they are trained, now they are familiar with us, we’re familiar with them, it’s again a very good win-win situation.”

Dean McKay said they plan to build a research center at the school specifically for the program.

“We hope that’ll be around forty-five hundred square feet of laboratory space,” he said. “In our case, when it comes to laboratories, that’s particularly expensive. And there’s a lot of limitations to that, and so the research affiliates will work with that especially well.”

Dean McKay said he hopes to secure funding for the center in the next two years. If you’re interested in becoming an affiliate, you can contact him at or (803) 641-3291.