Nuclear engineering graduate student selected to advocate in Washington, D.C.

September 19, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Marc Wonders, a Penn State graduate student earning his doctorate in nuclear engineering, was one of 15 students from across the country who participated in the annual Nuclear Engineering Student Delegation (NESD) this summer. He was sponsored by the Ken and Mary Alice Lindquist Department of Nuclear Engineering. 

The NESD was established in 1994 after federal funding for nuclear research reactors was eliminated by Congress. The group is organized by nuclear engineering students, and they travel to Washington, D.C. every year to advocate for issues important to them. 

According to Wonders, the original delegation’s efforts led to reinstatement of the funding. Due to that success, the delegation has reconstituted every year since 1994, with the exception of 1995. 

Now, the NESD serves as a week-long introduction to policy for students, while also exposing legislators to nuclear-related research. The delegation develops a policy statement to communicate their stance on issues they find important, engages with nuclear policy-related groups and meets directly with the students’ legislative offices. 

This year, the delegation met with the Nuclear Energy Institute, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, RAND Corporation, Third Way, ClearPath, the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy — including Rita Baranwal, the assistant secretary for nuclear energy — and national laboratory scientists on assignment with the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy. The students also met Craig Piercy, the American Nuclear Society’s (ANS) Washington, D.C. representative, and Alyse Huffman, a congressional staffer and an ANS Congressional Fellow. 

“These meetings were immensely helpful in understanding how these different entities interact throughout the policy-making process and how they carry out their specific missions,” Wonders said. “It was particularly fascinating to meet with national laboratory scientists on assignment in advisory roles as that’s an alternative route to impact the political process.” 

Wonders, a native of Akron, Ohio, earned his undergraduate degree from Washington and Lee University in Virginia. With those touchpoints, he met with the offices of Senators Brown (Ohio), Portman (Ohio), Kaine (Virginia), Casey (Pennsylvania), Toomey (Pennsylvania) and Representatives Fudge (Ohio-11) and Keller (Pennsylvania-12). 

“Overall, the experience was a wonderful opportunity that I would absolutely recommend to anyone in the nuclear science field with even the faintest interest in policy,” Wonders said. “I’m grateful I had the opportunity both to learn and participate in our political process.” 

More information on NESD can be found online at  

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 19, 2019