NC State celebrates 70 years of nuclear engineering education

March 5, 2021, 3:00PMANS News

An early picture of the research reactor building on the North Carolina State University campus. The Department of Nuclear Engineering is celebrating the 70th anniversary of its nuclear engineering curriculum in 2020–2021. Photo: North Carolina State University

The Department of Nuclear Engineering at North Carolina State University has spent the 2020–2021 academic year celebrating the 70th anniversary of its becoming the first U.S. university to establish a nuclear engineering curriculum. It started in 1950, when Clifford Beck, then of Oak Ridge, Tenn., obtained support from NC State’s dean of engineering, Harold Lampe, to build the nation’s first university nuclear reactor and, in conjunction, establish an educational curriculum dedicated to nuclear engineering.

The department, host to the 2021 ANS Virtual Student Conference, scheduled for April 8–10, now features 23 tenure/tenure-track faculty and three research faculty members. “What a journey for the first nuclear engineering curriculum in the nation,” said Kostadin Ivanov, professor and department head.

Although the temptation is often to focus on the past during an anniversary celebration like this, the department has kept a focused eye on the future. On November 5, it hosted a virtual seminar titled, “Into the Nuclear Future,” which featured ANS members Rita Baranwal, who at the time was the assistant secretary of energy in the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, and William Magwood IV, director general at OECD Nuclear Energy Agency.

On March 25, the department presented a Virtual Distinguished Executive Lecture by ANS member Sama Bilbao y Leon, director general of the World Nuclear Association. On April 22, Steven Zinkle, a professor in the Nuclear Engineering Department at the University of Tennessee–Knoxville, will present a Virtual Distinguished Technical Lecture.


“We continue to grow and diversify, expanding our concentration areas, certificates, distance education offerings, and minors,” Ivanov said. “We’re addressing the Grand Challenges of nuclear science and engineering with an expanding number of international and national partners. We’re harnessing experimental and modeling/simulation facilities and capabilities for groundbreaking research and education of the next generation of nuclear engineers. We’re excited about our role in the nuclear engineering future.”


Among future research projects, the department has a teaming agreement with TerraPower and X-energy to build two advanced nuclear reactors. It has also joined with TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy on the Natrium team. In addition, Steven Shannon, professor and head of the department’s graduate program, is collaborating with Karamedica to continue developing a microparticle therapy for treating cerebral amyloid angiopathy, a condition responsible for inflicting significant neurologic damage and afflicting greater than 85 percent of Alzheimer’s patients.