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20 Exceptional Nuclear Engineering Professors

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Said I. Abdel-Khalik, PhD - Georgia Tech

Dr. Said I. Abdel-Khalik is the Southern Nuclear Distinguished Professor of Nuclear and Radiological Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech. In addition to being a celebrated educator, he is a prolific researcher and writer with almost 400 leading academic journal papers, several patents, and many published conference proceedings to his name. Dr. Abdel-Khalik’s research in nuclear engineering, heat transfer, and fusion technology is supported by government agencies and key industry players, including the U.S. Department of Energy, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Southern Nuclear Operating Company. As a professor, he has supervised more than 100 graduate theses and won several teaching awards, including the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering’s Ziegler Outstanding Educator Award and the Outstanding Faculty Service Award (Georgia Tech); Outstanding Teacher Award (UW–Madison); and the Glenn Murphy Award (American Society for Engineering Education). Dr. Abdel-Khalik also won the American Nuclear Society’s Outstanding Achievement Award.

Assel Aitkaliyeva, PhD - University of Florida

Dr. Assel Aitkaliyeva is an assistant professor of nuclear engineering in the University of Florida’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering. She also holds a joint appointment with the Idaho National Laboratory and is a principal investigator at UF’s Materials for Nuclear Advancement and Technology in Extreme Environments program, or MANATEE. Dr. Aitkaliyeva previously served as the technical lead of the laboratories Focused Ion Beam and Nuclear Science User Facilities groups. Her current research interests include the thermal and mechanical properties of materials in irradiated environments, kinetics, nanostructured materials, and multi-scale simulation of nuclear fuel.

Todd Allen, PhD - University of Wisconsin–Madison

Dr. Todd Allen is the Grainger Institute for Engineering Professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a key contributor to the Wisconsin Institute of Nuclear Systems (WINS), which conducts research in health physics, multiphase flow, materials science, neutronics, and reactor physics. As a materials scientist, he studies nuclear radiation damage and corrosion while championing the establishment and commercialization of advanced nuclear concepts. Dr. Allen is particularly interested in fission reactors, fuels, and the sustainability of nuclear energy. He has been honored by several organizations, including the National Science Foundation, the American Nuclear Society, and the Argonne National Laboratory.

Robert Bean, PhD - Purdue University

Dr. Robert Bean is an assistant professor of nuclear engineering at Purdue University, where he earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees. His research interests include the use of advanced safeguards in nuclear facility design—particularly state-of-the-art nuclear generators, pyroprocessing facilities, and aqueous processing plants—as well as how to detect and measure radiation using gamma spectroscopy, neutron detectors, and solid state detectors, among other methods. Notably, he holds a patent for a specialized charged particle detector and is a member of the American Nuclear Society and the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management.

Michael J. Driscoll, ScD - MIT

Dr. Michael J. Driscoll is a professor emeritus of nuclear science and engineering education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His work as an educator is notable: he is the recipient of the Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Distinguished Teaching; the The Irwin Sizer Award "For the Most Significant Improvement to MIT Education;” and the American Society for Engineering Education’s Outstanding Teacher Awards. Dr. Driscoll has penned a myriad of academic articles and holds two patents. He also headed a project that won over $1.7M in Department of Energy Nuclear Energy university program grants to help develop the next generation of nuclear engineers. His top research foci include nuclear waste disposal and advanced reactor and fuel cycle development.

James Duderstadt, PhD - University of Michigan–Ann Arbor

Dr. James Duderstadt is the President Emeritus University Professor in nuclear engineering at the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor, which consistently ranks among the top nuclear engineering schools in the nation (and beyond). He is also director of the U-Millennium Project, a research center focused on technology’s impact on communities, institutions, and the world; the chair of the National Research Council’s Policy and Global Affairs Division; the co-director of the Glion Colloquium; and a senior fellow of the Brookings Institution. Dr. Duderstadt’s research interests include nuclear fission and fusion reactor theory and design; radiation transport; and the interaction of intense laser particle beams with plasmas. He is highly celebrated for his contributions to the field of nuclear engineering as both a professional and an educator. Among Dr. Duderstadt’s honors: the E.O Lawrence Award for excellence in research, the Arthur Holly Compton Prize for outstanding teaching, the President’s National Medal of Technology, and the Vannevar Bush Award for lifelong scientific and public policy contributions.

Robin Gardner, PhD - North Carolina State University

North Carolina State University Alumni Distinguished Graduate Professor of Nuclear and Chemical Engineering is only one of several titles held by Dr. Robin Gardner, who also serves as chief scientist of the Consortium for Nonproliferation Enabling Capabilities and director of the Center for Engineering Applications of Radioisotopes. He is particularly interested in researching industrial and medical radiation and radioisotope devices, such as nuclear gauges and analyzers, short-lived radioisotope tracers, and computed tomography devices. Dr. Gardner’s work appears Nuclear Technology, Nuclear Science and Engineering, and Radiation Physics and Chemistry, and other esteemed academic journals. He is both a distinguished fellow of the American Nuclear Society and recipient of the Arthur Holly Compton Award for teaching excellence. Additionally, he authored a text entitled “Radioisotope Measurement Applications in Engineering” (1967), which was funded by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. He also initiated a topical meeting series in 1978: “Industrial Radiation and Radioisotope Measurement Applications (IRRMA)." This series has been held ten times in three-year intervals in cities across the U.S., alternating with those in Europe and internationally. The tenth meeting was held in Chicago this year and the next meeting will be held in Moscow in 2020. Dr. Gardner also founded the Center for Engineering Applications of Radioisotopes (CEAR) in 1980. Since joining NCSU in 1967, he has graduated 52 PhD students, seven of which were American Nuclear Society Mark Mills Award winners for the best paper based on a PhD thesis.

Uwe Greife, PhD - Colorado College of Mines

Dr. Uwe Greife is a professor of nuclear engineering at the Colorado College of Mines’ Department of Physics and the management team chair for the institution’s Nuclear Science and Engineering Center. He is an experienced teacher and recipient of the Dean’s Excellence Award. What distinguishes him from other professors on this list, however, is his work, which he says can be “loosely described as nuclear physics.” In addition to studying nuclear astrophysics with radioactive ion beams, nuclear diagnostics, and neutron detection—work carried out in several national laboratories—he heads CCM’s Greife Research Group, a part of the school’s subatomic physics group, and is working to create a time projection chamber and the next generation of gamma and neutron-sensitive organic scintillators. Dr. Greife is deeply committed to developing future nuclear engineers: according to his professor home page, he is “naturally dedicated to education through the involvement of undergraduate and graduate students in the research enterprise.”

Mark J. Harper - United States Naval Academy

Dr. Mark J. Harper served as a U.S. Navy nuclear submarine officer for more than a decade before becoming a professor of nuclear engineering at the United States Naval Academy. His courses and continued work extend well beyond military applications, however: he has written more than 75 journal articles, technical presentations, and conference proceedings in research areas like radiation detection, nuclear reactor technology development, nuclear material safety, and environmental safety. He is also the team leader of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Water Cooled Reactors group. Dr. Harper is a dedicated teacher and inaugural recipient of the Raouf Award, deeming him the most effective engineering professor in the Academy.

Ahmed Hassanein, PhD - Purdue University

Dr. Ahmed Hassanein is Purdue University’s Paul L. Wattelet Distinguished Professor of Nuclear Engineering and widely recognized as one of the world's foremost leaders in modeling and benchmarking material responses to different radiation and particle sources. He accrued more than three decades of practical and research experience in the fields of nuclear and plasma physics and engineering before joining PU, holding such positions as senior scientist, group leader, and director of the Fusion Power Program at the Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory. He continues his work as director of the university’s Center for Materials Under eXtreme Environment. Dr. Hassanein’s research emphases include plasma material interactions; radiation and particle transport in materials; magnetic and inertial fusion; and laser-produced plasma. He has penned more than 500 articles and technical reports in over 30 different national and international physics, engineering, and materials journals, and has several patents to his name. His students and research staff have won numerous national and international awards in various research fields. Dr. Hassanein is a fellow of at least seven honorific professional societies including AAAS, SPIE, IEEE, ANS, OSA, APS, and IOP. Notably, he received the IEEE Merit Award—the highest IEEE technical achievement award of the nuclear and plasma sciences society.

William E. Kastenberg, PhD - University of California–Berkeley

Dr. William E. Kastenberg is a professor emeritus of nuclear engineering at the University of California–Berkeley, which is widely regarded as one of the nation’s top programs. He previously served as the school’s Distinguished Professor of Engineering Emeritus before being appointed part-time administrative law judge of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Technical and Atomic Safety licensing board. Dr. Kastenberg has done much to advance nuclear ethics and safety. He has authored or co-authored more than 150 papers published in peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings that promote nuclear reactor safety, risk management, and environmental and health risk assessment. These themes mirror his primary research interests, which include ethical issues in new technologies, environmental conflict resolution, environmental risk analysis, and nuclear reactor safety. Dr. Kastenberg’s honors include the Chancellor’s Professorship and the American Nuclear Society’s Arthur Holly Compton Award.

Andrew C. Klein, PhD - Oregon State University

Dr. Andrew C. Klein is a professor of nuclear science and engineering at Oregon State University. The university is known for its cutting-edge research and was the launching pad of NuScale—the creator of the groundbreaking small, one-module integral pressurized water reactor. In addition to teaching, Dr. Klein is the former president of the American Nuclear Society, editor of Nuclear Technology, and author of more than 120 technical publications. He also served as director of the Idaho National Laboratory’s Educational Partnerships and member of its Leadership-Management Team. His other prior positions include his time as head of OSU’s School of Nuclear Science and Engineering; director of the University Radiation Center; and director of the Oregon Space Grant Program. Dr. Klein currently serves on the National Nuclear Accrediting Board for the Institute for Nuclear Power Operations and the Board of Directors for the Foundation for Nuclear Studies. His research interests include nuclear energy systems design and analysis; space and fusion energy systems; radiation shielding; and nuclear nonproliferation.

Robert Kunz, PhD - Penn State

Dr. Robert Kunz is both a professor of mechanical engineering in the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering, and a senior scientist of the Applied Research Laboratory at Pennsylvania State University, which conducts key research, development, and systems engineering “in support of our nation's priorities.” His personal research foci include computational fluid dynamics, turbomachinery, multiphase flows, and nuclear reactor thermal-hydraulics, and he has contributed dozens of scientific papers and book chapters in these areas. One of his papers ranks among Computers and Fluids’ Top 25 Most Cited Papers of All Time. Dr. Kunz’s additional research and teaching honors include, the Barnes W. McCormack Lectureship Award; the AIAA Gordon C. Oates Graduate Air Breathing Propulsion Award; and Honorable Mention for the ASME Gas Turbine Paper-of-the-Year Award.

Richard T. Lahey, Jr., PhD - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Dr. Richard T. Lahey, Jr is the Edward. E. Hood Professor Emeritus of Engineering, former dean of engineering, and one-time director of the Center for Multiphase Research at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he teaches graduate-level nuclear engineering courses. His research, past and present, has made him an international authority in multiphase flow and heat transfer technology. Additional research interests include reactor safety analysis, sonofusion technology, and Chaos Theory. Dr. Lahey’s contributions to the nuclear field earned such prestigious honors as the Meritorious Service Award (ANS), the Donald Q. Kern Award, the Glenn T. Seaborg Award, the United State Merchant Marine Academy Alumni Association Achievement Award, and the E.O. Lawrence Award (DOE), among others. His teaching recognitions include the William H. Wiley Distinguished Faculty Award and the Glenn Murphy Award. Dr. Lahey is an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering and the Russian National Academy of Sciences–Bashkortostan.

Donald R. Olander, ScD - University of California–Berkeley

Dr. Donald R. Olander is professor emeritus of nuclear engineering and James Fife Chair in Engineering at the University of California–Berkeley. He is an accomplished researcher, engineer, and teacher, once winning the U.S. DOE Nuclear Engineering Education & Research Award and the Mishima Award for contributions to the field of nuclear materials. Dr. Olander’s research interests include high-temperature kinetic and thermodynamic behavior of nuclear reactor fuel—including performance of degraded fuel—and the design of an online boron-removal process in LWR coolant water. He remains a go-to consultant for several industry and research organizations such as Duke E & S Hanford and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where he provided information on the long-term storage of weapons materials.

Kenneth L. Peddicord, PhD - Texas A&M

Dr. Kenneth L. Peddicord is a professor of engineering at Texas A&M and director of the Nuclear Power Institute, a consortium of universities that ensure nuclear engineering curricula meet industry needs. He remains actively involved in the advancement of nuclear power. In addition to being an elected member of several professional societies and committees, Dr. Peddicord serves the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Nuclear Trade Advisory Committee; the Department of Energy’s International Subcommittee on Nuclear Energy; and the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board. He also won the American Society for Engineering Education’s Glenn Murphy Award for excellent teaching. Dr. Peddicord’s varied research interests include generation IV nuclear power systems, nuclear fuel behavior, and nuclear-generated hydrogen.

Mark A. Pierson, PhD - Virginia Tech

Dr. Mark A. Pierson is an associate professor of nuclear engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, where he is credited with redeveloping the entire nuclear engineering program, including all curricula. His efforts won him several honors including, the Virginia Tech College of Engineering W.S. “Pete” White Innovation in Engineering Education Award; a Certificate of Teaching Excellence; and the Sporn Award for Excellence in Engineering Instruction. Before joining Virginia Tech, Dr. Pierson was deputy department head of the Office of Naval Research’s Engineering, Materials and Physical Sciences Department and program officer for its Nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarine Security. He also served as an executive officer; as second-in-command for the USS Indiana nuclear submarine; and as a submarine maintenance program officer for the Pentagon’s director of naval warfare. According to Virginia Tech’s official website, Dr. Pierson’s naval engineering experience informs his teaching and continues to drive cutting-edge research in areas like nano-nuclear applications in radiation detection, nuclear nonproliferation, plant operations and safety, and computational particle transport applications in accelerator driven subcritical systems.

Richard Schultz, PhD - Idaho State University

Dr. Richard Schultz is a research professor at Idaho State University, a professor of practice at Texas A&M University, and a consulting engineer for the Idaho National Laboratory. He previously served as a distinguished research engineer at the Idaho National Laboratory and an experimentalist at the United Technology Research Center. Dr. Schultz was also an engineer for the General Electric Co. and a test engineer for Pratt & Whitney Aircraft. He has won several awards for his contributions to the field of nuclear engineering such as the Outstanding Engineer Award (ISU); the Outstanding Service Award (ISU); the George Westinghouse medal for eminent achievement in power engineering; the American Society of Mechanical Engineering’s Dedicated Service Award; and multiple Outstanding Research Awards internationally. Dr. Schultz was also an esteemed recipient of the Idaho National Laboratory Award for Individual Lifetime Achievement in Science and Technology, the lab’s highest achievement. His research interests numerical modeling of reactor systems and thermal-hydraulics of LWRs and advanced reactor systems.

James F. Stubbins, PhD - University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign

Dr. James F. Stubbins is the University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign’s Donald Biggar Willett Professor of nuclear engineering and an active consultant to many institutions, including universities, national laboratories, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the Department of Energy. His teaching nods include the Materials Science and Technology Division’s Outstanding Achievement Award and the Glenn Murphy Award for excellence in teaching. Dr. Stubbins’ research honors are just as impressive, once earning him the title of International Scientist of the Year, and earning him memberships and chairs in many esteemed professional nuclear societies. His primary areas of interest include the irradiation damage and effects, mechanical properties, high temperature corrosion, and electron microscopy of nuclear materials. He also studies the development and analysis of new materials with energy-related applications. Dr. Stubbins is a champion for advanced energy systems and policy.

Lawrence W. Townsend, PhD - University of Tennessee–Knoxville

Dr. Lawrence W. Townsend is both the Chancellor’s Professor and Robert M. Condra Professor Emeritus of nuclear engineering at the University of Tennessee–Knoxville. He is an accomplished researcher with special interests in radiation physics; nuclear and radiological engineering; transport; shielding and risk assessment; and theoretical nuclear physics, though his work in space research is especially notable. Dr. Townsend served on the NASA Task Group to Examine Radiation Issues for Manned Lunar and Mars Missions and the NASA Mars Human Precursor Science Steering Group, among other groups. His contributions to the field earned him the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal; the NASA Group Achievement Award; the NASA Langley Special Achievement Award; and the NASA Langley Superior Accomplishment Award. Notably, Dr. Townsend is celebrated as a professor of nuclear engineering, holding such accolades as the UT Research and Creative Achievement Award; the Moses E. and Mayme Brooks Distinguished Professor Award; and the Leon and Nancy Cool Superior Teaching Award.


The field of nuclear engineering has many accomplished professors. considered the following criteria in selecting the final picks:

  • Active teaching and/or advising nuclear engineering students
  • Acknowledgement of teaching excellence
  • Ongoing scholarship and research
  • Elected memberships and chairs in professional societies
  • Professional contributions to the field
  • Awards, fellowships, grants, and other marks of achievement
  • Published journal articles, presentations, conference proceedings, books, and other works