Every year, we take great pride in showcasing our school's achievements. We share the most compelling stories, exciting statistics, and notable new hires that have contributed to our school's success. From groundbreaking research to innovative teaching methods, we celebrate the outstanding accomplishments of our students, faculty, and staff. Whether you're a prospective student, a current member of our community, or simply interested in learning more about us, join us in celebrating the Iincredible impact of our school.
Going public going nuclear
Capping off an impressive string of successes in the past few years, NuScale Power, co-founded by Oregon State Professor Emeritus José Reyes, began trading on the New York Stock Exchange in May 2022.
NuScale (NYSE: SMR) designs and markets scalable modular nuclear reactors to supply carbon- free nuclear energy. At different points during his tenure at Oregon State, Reyes ran the university’s nuclear engineering and radiation health physics program and directed the Advanced Thermal Hydraulic Research Laboratory.
In August 2020, the company passed a major regulatory mile-stone when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the safety aspects of NuScale’s modular reactor design, thus com-pleting the sixth and final phase of the NRC’s review of NuScale’s design certification application. The first NuScale power module is expected to go into operation in Idaho in 2029. Since receiving NRC approval, NuScale has signed agreements to build reactors in South Africa, Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Ukraine. NuScale is also planning to build a simulator of its small modular reactor at a university in Bucharest, in order to train Romanians and others in the region to operate the reactors.
NuScale went public May 3 by merging with Spring Valley Acquisition Corporation, a publicly traded special purpose acquisition company. The deal is set to raise as much as $413 million, bringing NuScale’s total value to $1.9 billion.
The company has recently received a number of other significant investments, including from the Japanese government ($110 million), Samsung ($50 million) and U.S. steel giant Nucor ($15 million).
Distinguished professor and interim center director
Kathryn A. Higley has been named interim director of the Center for Quantitative Life Sciences, an Oregon State University-wide center that facilitates genome-enabled and data-driven research in the life and environmental sciences. A professor and former head of the School of Nuclear Science and Engineering, Higley most recently served as associate director of the TRACE project, Oregon State’s multidisciplinary effort to monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 statewide.
Higley has a long record of excellence at Oregon State. She has managed the university’s radiation health physics program, helping to develop its online graduate degree program into the country’s largest. She is a council member of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, a board member and fellow of the Health Physics Society, and a certified health physicist.
In May 2022, Oregon State named Higley a University Distinguished Professor, the highest
honor the university can bestow on a faculty member. Since 1988, the title has been awarded
to faculty who have achieved national and international distinction for contributions in
scholarship, research and creative work, teaching and mentoring, public engagement, and
Virtual lab extends reach of MHP program
Before the School of Nuclear Science and Engineering introduced its virtual radiation detection lab, in conjunction with Oregon State Ecampus, students enrolled in the online Master of Radiation Health Physics program had to spend a week in Corvallis over the summer to complete the lab requirement.
“It was disruptive for students to leave their homes and take time off work to complete their lab obligations,” said Lily Ranjbar, senior instructor and director of online programs. “Now they can complete all of the experiments at a time and pace that suits them, from any-where in the world, through a web browser.”
The virtual lab is an interactive simulation of a real radiation detection lab that faithfully reproduces the hands-on, in-person lab experience. Students control test parameters with a mouse and keyboard, while a virtual lab assistant walks them through the steps of each test. Since the virtual lab became operational — making the degree pro-gram 100% online — enrollment has jumped from 40 to 70 students and is expected to continue climbing, according to Ranjbar, who earned her doctorate in radiation health physics at Oregon State.
“To my knowledge, we are the first program to develop anything like this,” she said. “The addition opens the opportunity for many more students to pursue this field of study, no matter where in the world they are.”
Number Of Nuclear Engineering Degrees Awarded in The Nation
Triple alum goes with the nuclear flow
Since he was a teenager growing up in Baker City, Oregon, Trevor Kent Howard, assistant professor (senior research) of nuclear science and engineering, has been determined to help save the world.
“One of the things I was most concerned about was climate change,” Howard said. “I wanted to know how I could make the biggest difference with emerging technologies, such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, and nuclear.”
Howard went on to become the first in his family to earn an advanced degree and holds the distinction of being a College of Engineering triple alum, earning his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in nuclear engineering at Oregon State.
Howard’s research focuses on fluid-structure interactions, or FSI, within nuclear reactors. In 2018, he worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory as a thermal hydraulics research and development associate, receiving a Mission Support Award in 2019 for his contributions to the field of FSI with the lab’s High Flux Isotope Reactor.
“Nuclear energy has the potential to solve many of our climate issues,” Howard said. “Unlike other mined resources, uranium can be made renew-able because the uranium cycle in the ocean is self-replenishing. There’s enough to meet all of our energy needs.”
Since 2020, Howard has served as a member of the Marcum Research Group within NSE, working to address challenges associated with new and current nuclear reactor designs. This work aims to support the integrity of fuel plates as they interact with flow channels in reactors.
Reducing global nuclear threats
While the number of nuclear weapons has drastically reduced since the Cold War, the threat of a nuclear detonation remains a global concern.
Several collaborative and interdisciplinary projects at Oregon State led by Camille Palmer, associate professor of nuclear science and engineering — with contributions from experts in robotics, analytical chemistry, nuclear science, and policy — address the prevention of nuclear terrorism and proliferation of nuclear weapons. This research aims to reduce the possibility of nuclear material diversion for nonpeaceful uses by state or nonstate actors.
One National Nuclear Security Administration–funded study, through the Idaho National Laboratory, examines the suitability of soft robotics’ materials for inspection tasks in hard-to- reach locations under different radiation conditions. Another NNSA-funded study, through the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, is looking at existing and near-term solutions for autonomous monitoring of underground repositories of spent nuclear fuel.
PNNL also recently sponsored a project that Palmer is collaborating on with applications to nuclear forensics that analyzed noble metal- phase fission products to identify the unique signatures of different reactor types that may exist after plutonium reprocessing.
A cradle for nuclear education research
NuScale Power renewed its longstanding commitment to the NuScale Integral System Testing Program with $1.25 million in funding in 2022. The program conducts modular prototype testing using a one-third scale model of the company’s NuScale Power Module at the NIST facility, located on the campus of Oregon State University in Corvallis. Testing involves design, installation, operation, maintenance, instrument calibration, quality assurance, data analysis and validation, and system modeling.
“The NIST program creates opportunities for worldwide research collaboration, and it serves as the cradle for undergraduate and graduate students’ education and research, as well as providing opportunities for industry engagement,” said Qiao Wu, professor of nuclear science and engineering, who has served as the program’s director since 2010.
Wu also helms the NuScale Energy Exploration (E2) Center, which was built on campus with funding from the Department of Energy in 2020.
E2 employs state-of-the-art computer modeling within a simulator of a NuScale small modular reactor power plant control room — the first of its kind in the world — allowing users to take on the role of control room operator at a 12-unit SMR plant.