Professor emeritus honored as Outstanding Engineering Alumnus


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Jack S. Brenizer, professor emeritus of nuclear engineering at Penn State, has been named one of 12 recipients of the 2019 Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award by the College of Engineering.

Receiving his doctorate in nuclear engineering from Penn State in 1981, Brenizer spent 40 years teaching, at the University of Virginia and Penn State, and also served as the chair of the Penn State nuclear engineering program for 11 years.

During his storied academic career, Brenizer guided the growth of the Penn State nuclear engineering program and spearheaded several projects that spurred a long-lasting impact on the nuclear industry. A Big-10 consortium he led, funded by the Department of Energy’s Innovations in Nuclear Infrastructure and Education (INIE) program, helped strengthen nuclear engineering programs across the nation and provide the industry with much-needed, well-trained students.

“It was a very timely and important program, it brought a lot of improvements to Penn State’s on-campus reactor and to our nuclear engineering program and it also enabled critical accomplishments at other universities like Wisconsin, Illinois and Purdue,” he said.

His time leading the nuclear engineering unit also proved to be a critical expansion for the discipline. During his tenure as chair of the nuclear engineering program, undergraduate enrollments increased from a class of six to more than 100.

Now as the nuclear engineering program is emerging as the Ken and Mary Alice Lindquist Department of Nuclear Engineering, Brenizer is proud to have contributed to the revitalization of the program.

“In a time when nuclear engineering programs were being shut down, we were able to retain and grow our program by joining it with the mechanical engineering department - it was a very valuable time for us,” he said. “It will be nice to see it spin off as an independent department again.”

Arthur Motta, his colleague and successor as nuclear engineering program chair, said, “Jack is widely known and universally respected in the nuclear engineering community. He was instrumental in guiding us through difficult times. He was an effective advocate for the program and a wonderful mentor to young faculty as well as to students. We were indeed lucky to have him.”

While he says he never intended to become a professor, it became a lifelong passion. “I was blessed with wonderful and productive students to work with,” Brenizer said.

As a professor, Brenizer taught courses in radiation interaction with matter, radiation dosimetry, radiation detection, health physics and engineering design. He was actively involved in research in radiation detection, nondestructive testing, neutron radiography and imaging, and neutron activation analysis.

Reflecting on this honor, he said, “I always considered this to be one of the most important awards that a person could receive because it comes from your institution and your peers.”

Brenizer will be honored on April 8 at the College of Engineering’s annual Outstanding Engineering Alumni Awards ceremony at the Nittany Lion Inn on the University Park campus.


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Jack Brenizer

Jack S. Brenizer, professor emeritus of nuclear engineering at Penn State



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 from other programs with a strong focus on experimental research in power, science, security and safety. 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 department also houses the Breazeale Nuclear Reactor, the country’s first and longest operating licensed nuclear reactor. The construction and operation of the reactor introduced nuclear engineering to Penn State, and, in doing so, harnessed research and educational opportunities as key strengths for the department. See how we’re inspiring change and impacting tomorrow at

Department of Nuclear Engineering

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The Pennsylvania State University

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