Last month, I and several other professionals, attended the ANS Student Conference in Madison, Wisconsin. We got the opportunity to interact with and meet some of the best and brightest students currently being produced in nuclear academia anywhere in the world. As the incoming American Nuclear Society (ANS) Young Members Group (YMG) Chair, I attended the conference to speak on several panels but also to help support the activities of the student organizers and Student Sections Committee (SSC). The conference offered me the rare opportunity to get in front of some or our newest young members and learn what the YMG can do to support them better.
By attending the student conference each year, it is my hope and goal to ensure that the next generation of ANS leaders is well supported and prepared to handle the challenges that they will face in coming years. The following passages are reflections from other professionals and the conference organizers on the success of the conference and why everyone should be interested in attending the ANS Student conference.
-Brett Rampal, NuScale Power Nuclear Engineer, ANS YMG Vice-Chair and Incoming ANS YMG Chair
This year’s conference was hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison with the theme Being a Critical Member of the Nuclear Industry (yes, pun intended). It was built from the idea that there are multiple factors that go into being a successful engineer beyond technical skills. Looking back on the conference, there is a lot to be proud of. We had 569 total registrants, including 438 students and 131 professionals. The career fair hosted 27 different booths, including 20 recruiting companies and labs and seven university programs. We were impressed by how many student summary submissions we received—115 podium presentations and 30 poster presentations. The innovation competition, a unique event this year, featured seven groups of students pitching not only their ideas for the nuclear industry but also their business models for making those visions reality. Our dinners featured keynote speeches from Jim Meister, Vice President of Operations Support at Exelon Generation, Joyce Connery, Chairman of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, and ANS President Eugene Grecheck. It’s also fun being able to showcase what makes the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the city of Madison, and just Wisconsin in general special. We received lots of positive feedback on our tour of the newly-decommissioned Kewaunee Power Station, a joint tour of Phoenix Nuclear Labs and SHINE Medical Technologies—two Madison startups focused on neutron sources and medical isotopes, respectively—and tours of UW-Madison’s five plasma and fusion experimental labs. Of course, we couldn’t resist slipping in a buffet featuring two Wisconsin staples, cranberries and cheese, for Friday night’s dinner.
-Matthew Jasica, University of Wisconsin-Madison 2016 ANS Student Conference Co-Chair
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to take part in the 2016 ANS Student Conference, expertly organized and led by University of Wisconsin-Madison. This was my third student conference to participate in as a graduate student in nuclear engineering at MIT over the past five years.
It was truly a pleasure to join Erin Wehlage of Studsvik ScandPower and Christopher Perfetti of ORNL for the “Cacophony of Codes” panel at the conference. Erin, Chris and I shared our views on the development and maintenance of nuclear physics simulation codes from the perspectives of industry, the national lab system and academia, respectively. We were fortunate to have a very engaged and inquisitive audience of students who posed insightful questions for the three of us. The questions spanned a wide range of topics, including methods for validation and verification of legacy codes to our expectations for how new modern, high-performance programming languages such as Julia may improve next-generation nuclear reactor simulation tools. The lively discussion amongst the next generation of scientific and engineering leaders at the “Cacophony of Codes” panel bodes well for the future of our nuclear industry.
-Will Boyd, Ph.D. Student Researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
The 2016 ANS Student Conference at the University of Wisconsin was an excellent opportunity for National Laboratory professionals to interact with students and see what cutting edge research is taking place at U.S. universities. The recruiting that took place at the career fair was hugely successful. Los Alamos National Laboratory recruiters went home with almost 30 resumes from undergraduate and graduate students looking for positions ranging from summer internships to full-time staff. With the aging workforce across the laboratory, complex events like these are essential to the future of Department of Energy research and the national security mission.
-Alexis Trahan, Los Alamos National Laboratory R&D Engineer, Outgoing ANS Student Sections Committee Chair
I’ve had the pleasure of representing Studsvik Scandpower at the past two ANS Student Conferences. This year, I was asked to fill in for one of our lead software developers on the “Cacophony of Codes” panel. This honor allowed me to add “speaker” to my regularly (and thoroughly enjoyed) roles as “recruiter” and “judge.”
It was inspiring to have students ask intelligent questions about the latest and greatest programming languages and cutting edge nuclear software during the “Cacophony of Code” panel. It was equally inspiring to listen to dynamic presentations by William Boyd, a PhD student at MIT, and a young professional, Dr. Chris Perfetti from Oak Ridge during the panel. Studsvik’s nuclear software is primarily directed toward the technology used at commercial nuclear reactors but their presentations gave me ideas and motivation for the future of nuclear software development, not to mention how enjoyable it was to meet younger students so passionate in this field.
Staffing our Studsvik Scandpower career fair booth and attending various podium presentations and poster sessions gave me the opportunity to see what research is being done in other parts of the industry. One thing that shocked me was that most students were not familiar with a contemporary nuclear plant simulator used for reactor operator training. They thought a plant simulator was something that required 3D goggles or Google Glasses. Although, these types of simulations may be implemented at a commercial nuclear plant in the future, I advise students to try and be in touch with and learn about the technology that is currently used in the nuclear industry.
Overall, I really enjoyed this year’s conference. The University of Wisconsin was a gracious host. Attending the conferences each year keeps me in touch with what students are learning, and it keeps my view of the nuclear industry current. I’ve returned to this week with a smile on my face, the future of the nuclear industry looks bright!
-Erin Wehlage, Studsvik Scandpower Senior Nuclear Engineer