For over a decade, I have been attending American Nuclear Society (ANS) National and Topical meetings both as a student and a young professional. These meetings hold a very special place in my heart and give me the opportunity to participate in a professional and technical venue most closely aligned with my career and goals. However, I am often asked, "What value is there in attending the ANS meetings, and why do you go?" The answer to that question can sometimes be difficult to supply, solely because of the over-abundance of reasons for and value I gain from attending. The short answer is, "I attend because I am a nuclear professional and an advocate for our industry and all nuclear professionals should attend." But the true answer goes deeper than that.
Within our small and secluded nuclear community, it can sometimes be difficult to interact with so-called "pillars of our industry," or nuclear professionals who have made their mark on nuclear technology and sciences as a whole. National meetings, however, tend to be the great equalizer, allowing even the greenest student to sit next to giants in our field or a young professional to share coffee and tea with one of his or hers idols. As a young person, I remember fondly having that so-called "fan-boy" moment when I recognized a last name on an ANS badge and realized that I was sitting at a table with someone who had helped shaped the industry that I love. It can be both humbling and extremely rewarding and I now look forward to every chance I get for interactions like this.
ANS meetings also serve as an avenue for individuals so inclined to attempt to become one of the nuclear "celebrities" that it can be exciting to meet. The most robust and thorough technical program possible is put forth at each ANS meeting and all nuclear professionals can use these programs to present the value of their work in front of their peers. From student poster sessions to submitted paper sessions to technical panel discussions, ANS national meetings have something for everyone and a place for those individuals to show off their work and accomplishments. I have never found a better venue for having the opportunity to both present novel and valuable work to our community while still being able to see other presentations and learn about our industry's cutting edge in such a short time frame.
Professional development and advocacy are also deeply ingrained in the society and featured at many of the meetings. From communication sessions to professional engineer licensing workshops to political/advocacy related events and workshops, ANS meetings offer the opportunity for an individual to better themselves and become of more value to the society as a whole. The Storm The Hill event at the upcoming winter meeting should be of interest to any nuclear professional as it gives the opportunity to interact with the congressman from your district and learn more about what drives nuclear policy. The Young Professionals Congress is also taking place at the upcoming winter meeting and offers an opportunity for all, young and beyond, to learn more about the many facets of our industry and how to make the most out of them.
ANS meetings have been a paramount part of my nuclear career and of my personal life. Some of the best friends I have ever made and some of the best jobs I have ever gotten came because of interactions I had at an ANS meeting. I would not be where I am now if it weren't for the great opportunities I was able to engage in at these meetings and the people I met. I highly encourage all nuclear professionals to attend and participate as much as they can.
Brett Rampal is a nuclear engineer for NuScale Power in Charlotte, NC. Brett received his master's and bachelor's degrees in nuclear engineering from the University of Florida. He is the current vice chair of the ANS Young Members Group, a member ANS's Student Section, and the Professional Development Coordination and Membership Committees.