Nuclear Engineering to become independent department


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - On Nov. 13, Nicolas P. Jones, Penn State executive vice president and provost, on the advisement of the Faculty Senate Council, approved the separation of the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering into two independent departments.
On July 1, 2019, the academic unit will become the Ken and Mary Alice Lindquist Department of Nuclear Engineering.  
The nuclear engineering department merged with mechanical engineering in 1997 by then-Harold and Inge Marcus Dean of Engineering David N. Wormley and Richard Benson, then-department head of mechanical engineering. The goal of the consolidation was to allow for the continued existence of the nuclear engineering program in light of declining enrollments. Bolstered by mechanical engineering, the nuclear graduate program is now ranked 16th by U.S. News and World Report.     

In addition to broadening research efforts, a standalone nuclear engineering department will allow for expanded academic offerings and specialized concentrations.

A historical leader in nuclear engineering, Penn State remains one of the few institutions in the world with an operating research nuclear reactor. Opened in 1955 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Braezeale Reactor’s license was issued as part of Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” program, aimed at capitalizing on the use of nuclear fuels for peaceful applications.

“Penn State has always been a center for nuclear engineering,” Arthur Motta, professor and chair of nuclear engineering, said. “The newly-formed department will surely continue to provide the industry with the talented and capable engineers they need.”

Led by Justin Schwartz, the current Harold and Inge Marcus Dean of Engineering, the separation will build on the program’s strengths and position the University as a leader in clean energy production.

“As climate change has become one of the principal societal issues facing the world, nuclear power remains the major non-fossil fuel source that can deliver significant amounts of carbon-free electricity,” Schwartz said. “This increased effort at Penn State is not only strategically wise, but critical to the world’s energy needs.”

Widespread nuclear proliferation has also underscored the need for leadership in nuclear security. “The threat of nuclear terrorism is simply not going to go away,” Schwartz said. “Expanding the department will amplify our efforts and help ensure the United States is prepared to face these issues.” 

As mechanical and nuclear engineering diverge, Penn State has the historical success and strength to not only remain a leader in both disciplines, but to expand and thrive well in the future.


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Erin Cassidy Hendrick



The Ken and Mary Alice Lindquist Department of Nuclear Engineering at Penn State is one of the top ranked nuclear engineering programs in the United States. The department distinguishes itself with a strong focus on experimental research. The actively growing department leads four educational programs for students pursuing a bachelor of science, a master of science, a master of engineering, or a doctoral degree. The Radiation Science and Engineering Center (RSEC) facilities, including the Breazeale Reactor, are available to nuclear engineering faculty and students at Penn State for research and instruction. RSEC houses the Breazeale Nuclear Reactor, the country’s first and longest operating licensed nuclear research reactor. Having access to an operating research reactor is a key strength for the department and enables Penn State to harness research and educational opportunities that are unique in the United States. See how we’re inspiring change and impacting tomorrow at

Department of Nuclear Engineering

206 Hallowell Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4400

Phone: 814-863-6222