Nuclear security program announces first graduates

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – An effort to meet the growing need for trained nuclear security professionals passed a milestone recently as the first graduates from a joint effort by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), Penn State, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Texas A&M were announced.

The graduate-level program, which began in 2011, aims to develop and educate the next generation of specialists in nuclear and radiological security with both domestic and international focus.

A total of 19 students completed the program – seven from Penn State, four from MIT and eight from Texas A&M.

The NNSA, through its Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), partnered with the universities to collaboratively design and develop curricula, course material and laboratory activities.

The program provides a comprehensive education in nuclear security, primarily for nuclear engineering graduate students and allows them to earn a nuclear security specialization for a master’s of science degree in nuclear engineering. Students can also receive a standalone graduate certificate in nuclear security.

A set of five courses was developed for the nuclear security education program, with each school organizing one or two of the following: Threat Analysis and Assessment; Detector and Source Technologies; Application of Detectors/Sensors/Sources for Radiation Detection and Measurement; Global Nuclear Security Policies; and Design and Analysis of Security Systems for Nuclear and Radiological Facilities.

At Penn State, Kenan Ünlü, director of the Radiation Science and Engineering Center, professor of nuclear engineering and principal investigator for the nuclear security education program grant; and Igor Jovanovic, the Bashore Faculty Development Professor and associate professor of nuclear engineering, created two courses. These classes focused on detecting and identifying sources for security systems and transportation issues with nuclear security, as well as a complementary laboratory class on nuclear security applications of detectors, sensors and sources for radiation detection and measurement.

“We limited enrollment to 10 graduate students for teaching these five courses the first time,” Ünlü said. “We had 10 to 12 students in each class. Seven graduate students completed all five courses.”

GTRI and its university partners began cooperation to develop the curriculum and course materials for the program in 2010, entering into a formal agreement between the three universities to share all course materials developed, the workload associated with the development and implementation process and the costs associated with creating and implementing the courses.

After all five courses are taught a second time by 2014, the three universities have committed to continuing to offer the classes as their own expense and sharing the curriculum with other interested universities.


Kenan Unlu

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Director of Radiation Science Center and professor of nuclear engineering

Last Updated June 17, 2013