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UC Partnership Builds Bridges with Underrepresented Students

Date: Aug. 9, 2002
By: Eric Lose
Phone: (513) 556-1806
Phots by Dottie Stover
Archive: General News

Maisha Murry uses an oscilloscope to observe the pulse height distribution produced by a Geiger-Mueller detector exposed to 137cs

A special program funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) has sparked awareness and interest in advanced degrees in nuclear engineering and health physics at the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering. The program is a collaborative effort between UC's Department of Nuclear and Radiological Engineering and Tuskegee University in Alabama, designed to attract underrepresented students into professions like engineering, physics, chemistry and mathematics.

The UCNRE-TU Bridge Building Project recruited top Tuskegee students for an intensive six-week summer residency program. The objectives of the program for 2002 were:

  • To introduce students to fundamental principles of nuclear engineering (NE).

  • To expose them to the exciting career options available.

  • To connect them with several good NE internships for Summer 2003.

  • To motivate them to enroll in the UCNRE graduate programs.

    Tuskegee junior and chemistry major Keith Green was one of the students chosen for the project. "I wanted to see what nuclear engineering was about," said Green, "and what UC had to offer." Jacob Capps prepares to measure the transmission of radiation from a 137cs source through an aluminum absorber

    The group traveled extensively, visiting sites in numerous locations, including the Argonne National Laboratory at the University of Chicago, the Cook Nuclear Power Plant in Bridgeman, Mich., The Ohio State University Research Reactor, the Westinghouse training facilities in Waltz Mill, Pa., and Isomedix, a commercial irradiation facility in Groveport, Ohio. The residency ended with a two-day trip to Washington, D.C,. where they visited the National Institute of Standards of Technology Center for Neutron Research, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Nuclear Energy Institute and the Department of Energy. According to John Christenson, director of UC's Nuclear and Radiological and Engineering Program, "The D.C. trip was the capstone event of their summer residency."

    Students left the residency with a different view of UC and the nuclear industry. Green said, "I learned a lot about nuclear engineering. It's an occupation that is safe and pretty technical. It's interesting how much you can contribute to the American way of life by creating power for people."

    Green was impressed with the UCNRE teachers. "The faculty we worked with were pretty easy to talk to and very easy to find whenever we needed them." MacArther Witherspoon measures the distance between the radioactive source and detector in an experiement.

    MacArthur Weatherspoon from Sacramento was another student who attended the Bridge Building Project. He's a senior majoring in aerospace engineering and physics at Tuskegee. Weatherspoon said he was already interested in pursuing a graduate degree in engineering. "For me, the Bridge project was a great opportunity. We went on a lot of field trips and learned a lot about the profession," he said. "Now, I'm interested in becoming a nuclear engineer.

    "UC impressed me. It's a nice big school with lots of available resources and information."

    According to Christenson, UC and Tuskegee have a three-year contract with the DOE to continue the project. "We're starting to see an increase in student interest in NE. Plant licenses are being renewed and there's a lot of opportunity in the field."

    More Background on Bridges Program.

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