Graduating student’s career goal is safe, abundant nuclear energy

Portrait of Iman Stephenson.

For the past two years, Iman Stephenson, a nuclear engineering student earning her bachelor’s degree this spring, has investigated how materials respond to the high temperatures (500-1000 C) specified for next-generation nuclear reactors. She says this research experience has been invaluable.

“I learned what it means to be in the nuclear engineering field from working with graduate students,” she said. “There are a lot more opportunities than I realized.”

As for her next opportunity? Stephenson will move to Arizona to work at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station as a Legacy Engineer.

Stephenson believes nuclear power will be a major factor in the global transition to sustainable energy.

“It’s a stable, efficient energy source. I want to make it as available and safe as possible,” she said.

Stephenson, a College of Engineering Student Success Scholarship recipient, confirmed her love for nuclear engineering at the beginning of her studies, she said, because the program is “really hands-on.” She had come to Oregon State specifically for nuclear engineering after taking a tour led by a College of Engineering student ambassador. She ended up becoming an ambassador herself.

“I’ve definitely found community through the Student Ambassador Program,” she said. “It is a job, but it feels like you’re hanging out with your friends, and you just happen to also be giving tours to prospective students and their families.”

The Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center was also a factor in Stephenson’s choosing Oregon State. The center is a gathering place for Black-focused student affinity groups, including the National Society for Black Engineers, the Black Student Union, and the NAACP student chapter.

“The space feels like family,” Stephenson said. “A lot of Black students call the center a ‘home away from home’ because people are really friendly and welcoming. It’s nice to have a space designated for Black students because it’s easy to feel alienated.”

Stephenson also worked as a math assistant, teaching fellow students.

“I’ve found that it’s really important to teach other people. I love math so much and I want other people to love math as well,” she said.

Stephenson says she’s leaving Oregon State “well-rounded,” thanks to a strong academic foothold in her major, the leadership experience and community she’s gained through extracurricular activities, and the mental health support she’s found through Counseling and Psychological Services.

“I’ve definitely blossomed,” she said. “I’ve been able to thrive at Oregon State.”

June 26, 2024