NSE - Nuclear Science & Engineering at MIT


NSE Students Spotlights

Male, graduate student, Eli Sanchez standing in a out of focus naturally lit hallway, in the left side of the photograph, MIT

Modeling the threat of nuclear war

As part of his doctoral studies in MIT’s Department of Nuclear Scienc and Engineering, Eli Sanchez focused on understanding whether hypersonic missiles are a threat to global security.

Male postdoc, Guoqing Wang, in lab leaning on his right arm; green laser instrumentation set-up in the foreground to the left and wires hanging above, MIT

Exploring quantum phenomena through an engineering perspective

Guoqing Wang has channeled a deep love of physics to the study of different aspects of quantum sciences.

ill Rahon in Army fatigues seated on a swivel chair in a lab with instuments and lab equipment behind her, and our of focus to the front left, MIT

Soaring high in the Army — and in research

After three deployments in Afghanistan, Lieutenant Colonel Jill Rahon is pursuing research that will help verify conformation of nuclear treaties.

female with arms crossed standing on the right side of the photo inside a building at MIT with a brick wall to the right and steel structure to the left

Optimizing construction and operation of nuclear energy facilities

Keen to accelerate the adoption of nuclear energy, Isabel Naranjo De Candido is working on methods to optimize construction and operation of production plants.

female leaning agains an architechtural column outdoors at MIT with left hand on hip

Winning over nuclear skeptics

Kaylee Cunningham might love nuclear engineering and computer science but recognizes that her training could be for naught if myths continue to plague the industry. The activist is committed to help &emdash; one TikTok at a time.

male in front of instruments in a lab at MIT

Understanding boiling to help the nuclear industry and space missions

Always fascinated by physics, Florian Chavagnat is propelling his love of the science to answer fundamental questions about heat transfer that will shape the success of nuclear power plants — and extended missions in space.

male student in red checked tshirt and jeans seated outdoors on park bench leaning forward with arms on knees with corrugated metal wall in background, MIT

Printing a new approach to fusion powerplant materials

Through research on additive manufacturing of metal-ceramic composites, the fourth-year nuclear science and engineering doctoral student, Alexander O'Brien is enabling a category of high-functioning materials that can deliver the next generation of fusion devices.

male student standing with arms folded, grid of photos of people in labs in the background, MIT

Exploring the bow shock and beyond

PhD student Rishabh Datta seeks to further understanding of astrophysical phenomena.

Male student standing against an orange background, MIT

Assil Halimi: Working to Make Nuclear Energy More Competitive

Through research on high burnup fuels and improving the design of nuclear power plants, the second-year doctoral student is adopting a dual approach to addressing some of the industry’s toughest challenges.

Amelia Trainer, MIT

Simulating neutron behavior in nuclear reactors

Amelia Trainer’s work is fundamental to understanding how nuclear reactors operate. A passion for computer modeling and poetry have stood her in good stead through her research career.

Four students on a curved walkway indoors against an orange backdrop, MIT

The task of magnetic classification suddenly looks easier

MIT undergraduate researchers, Helena Merker, Harry Heiberger, and Linh Nguyen and PhD student, Tongtong Liu, exploit machine learning techniques to determine the magnetic structure of materials.

Evan Leppink, MIT

Seeking a way to better stabilize the fusion environment

In a residency supported by the Department of Energy, the NSE PhD candidate, Evan Leppink, will explore the high-field side of the DIII-D tokamak.

Changhao Li, MIT

Mining valuable insights from diamonds

A passion to understand natural science phenomena ignited Changhao Li’s love of quantum physics.

Zoe Fisher, MIT

Finding her way to fusion

Zoe Fisher’s undergraduate research journey leads to a role working on the SPARC tokamak

Nina Andrejevic, MIT

Fast-tracking the search for energy-efficient materials

Doctoral candidate Nina Andrejević combines spectroscopy and machine learning techniques to identify novel and valuable properties in matter

Rachel Bielajew, MIT

Helping make fusion a reality

Fusion has great potential as a carbon-free energy source but plasma turbulence presents a problem. Rachel Bielajew is taking on that challenge and helping make a better world—through science and community action.

Limiao Zhang, MIT

Crossing disciplines, adding fresh eyes to nuclear engineering

Graduate student, Limiao Zhang, sees surprising connections between the behavior of cars and bubbles.

W Robb Stewart, MIT

Waging a two-pronged campaign against climate change

With a nuclear energy startup and cost-modeling tool, PhD student Robbie Stewart aims to speed construction of new plants for decarbonizing the economy

Madhumitha Ravichandran, MIT

The boiling crisis — and how to avoid it

PhD student Madhumitha Ravichandran identifies the three main factors that trigger the boiling crisis through machine learning models

Richard Ibekwe, MIT, MIT

Understanding imperfections in fusion magnets

MIT Energy Fellow Richard Ibekwe finds flaws in high-temperature superconducting tapes, so they can be measured, fixed or embraced.

Arunkumar Seshadri, MIT

A practical path toward discovery

Doctoral student, Arunkumar Seshadri leverages radiation and other tools as he seeks enhanced materials for nuclear reactors

Lucio Milanese, MIT

Discovering a new paradigm for understanding plasma turbulence

PhD candidate Lucio Milanese uncovers new fundamental mechanism in turbulence

Peninah Levine, MIT

Toward a more secure world

Senior Nina Levine researches technologies for detecting radioactive material, pursuing a dual path in nuclear science and policy

Thanh Nguyen, MIT

Thanh Nguyen: Tantalized by the neutrons

In a new realm of materials, NSE doctoral student hunts for exotic properties probed by neutrons that could power real-world applications

Wickert, Mandal, Montoya, MIT

Undergraduates ramp up research during pandemic diaspora

Far from MIT, NSE students Charlotte Wickert, Mriganka Mandal, and Natalie Montoya, take ownership of projects and explore new terrain

Alahmadi, Nguyen, Garcia, MIT

No pause for pandemic

NSE UROPs Aljazzy Alahmadi, Quynh T. Nguyen, and Andrea Garcia are sustaining the NSE research mission from around the world

Lauryn Kortman, MIT

Juggling fusion magnets and LED batons

Rising MIT sophomore, Lauryn Kortman, finds satisfaction designing for the laboratory and the playing field.

Sreya Vangara, MIT

At home with fusion research

Hundreds of miles from campus, Sreya Vangara recalibrates her approach to laboratory research and other MIT commitments.

Norman Cao, MIT

Addressing challenges in controlling plasma and plasma turbulence

In his PhD thesis, Norman Cao questions assumptions about plasma turbulence; he questions what’s next.

Erica Salazar, MIT

The quest for practical fusion energy sources

Graduate student Erica Salazar tackles a magnetic engineering challenge

Pablo Ducru, MIT

Pablo Ducru: Scientist/entrepreneur

After delivering novel computational methods for nuclear problems, doctoral candidate plunges into startup life

Analyce Hernandez, MIT

Uncloaking big mysteries

Junior double major seeks to piece together puzzles of the universe, particle by particle

Nestor Sepulveda, MIT

Zeroing in on decarbonization

Wielding complex algorithms, NSE doctoral candidate Nestor Sepulveda spins out scenarios for combating climate change

Pablo Rodriguez-Fernandez, MIT

Heating by Cooling

Pablo Rodriguez-Fernandez PhD’19resolves a fusion paradox to receive the 2019 Del Favero Thesis Prize

Myles Stapelberg, MIT

From videogames to startups

Myles Stapelberg ’21, a junior double majoring in nuclear science and engineering and materials science and engineering, wants to help make sure that the best materials for building fusion tokamaks for the purpose of power generation.

Kiran O. Dolan, MIT

A vision of nuclear energy buoyed by molten salt

NSE graduate student Kieran Dolan tackles a critical technical challenge to fluoride-salt-cooled high-temperature nuclear reactors.

Miriam Kreler, MIT

Fine-tuning multiphysics problems

NSE graduate student Miriam Kreher codes to create better models for complex interactions within nuclear reactors

Raspberry Simpson , MIT

From summer research program to PhD dissertation

NSE graduate student Raspberry Simpson’s scientific fourney approaches fruition

Eva Lisowski , MIT

Pushing the limits

NSE junior Eva Lisowski studies and trains hard for a future of national service

Artyom Kossolapov , MIT

Heat-seeking studies

Using cutting-edge diagnostic devices, NSE graduate student, Artyom Kossolapov, takes precision measurements of a physical phenomenon critical to nuclear reactor energy generation

David Layden, MIT

Honing quantum sensing

New QEG approach to spatial noise filtering boosts development of ultra-sensitive quantum sensor devices.

Juan Ruiz Ruiz , MIT

The heat of the matter

PhD candidate Juan Ruiz Ruiz seeks to discover how heat leaks from fusion plasmas.

Xingang Zhao , MIT

Making nuclear energy safer and more affordable

Galvanized by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disasters, PhD student Xingang Zhao envisions a future with safe, efficient nuclear power.

Etienne Demarly, MIT

Mastering fluid flow and bubble boil

Through meticulous computations, nuclear science and engineering student Etienne Demarly simulates conditions inside a nuclear reactor.

Guanyu Su, MIT

Turning up the heat

Fine-tuning thermal hydraulics in reactors, doctoral student Guanyu Su hopes to advance more powerful nuclear energy technology

Ka-Yen Yau, MIT

Ka-Yen Yau: From coolants to a carbon-constrained world

An early calling for clean energy propels undergraduate Ka-Yen Yau’s research on the next generation of nuclear technology ... more

Rachel Connick, Charles Hirst, MIT

A paired passion for pushing boundaries

Nuclear science and engineering doctoral students, Rachel Connick and Charles Hirst, search for radiation damage in metals ... more

Olorunsola (Jerry) Akinsulire, MIT

The making of a maker mentor:

Undergraduate Olorunsola (Jerry) Akinsulire spearheads new NSE builder space. ... more

Alex Creely

Alex Creely: Bridging the gap between simulation and reality

Graduate student Alex Creely receives Department of Energy Innovation Award. ... more

Leigh Ann Kesler

Leigh Ann Kesler: Scaling heights and measuring depths

Nuclear science and engineering PhD candidate tracks erosion happening inside fusion devices. ... more

Becky Romatoski

Becky Romatoski: Reducing risk in next-generation reactors

Nuclear science and engineering graduate student Becky Romatoski analyzes range of uncertainties in MIT’s salt-cooled nuclear reactor project. ... more

Sean Lowder

Sean Lowder: A path to naval nuclear engineering

NSE senior Sean Lowder is taking his nuclear engineering expertise to Washington, DC ... more

Monica Pham

Monica Pham: Advancing nuclear power and empowering girls

NSE sophomore Monica Pham researches fusion energy and promotes STEM opportunities for young women. ... more

Sara Hauptman

Sara Hauptman: Learning on the job

Before sophomore Sara Hauptman set foot in a nuclear science and engineering (NSE) class, she was learning to operate MIT’s nuclear reactor. ... more

Brandon Sorbom

Brandon Sorbom: Designing a fusion future

NSE graduate student, Brandon Sorbom, now in his sixth year at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC), is researching how much radiation magnetic materials in fusion tokamaks can endure before they are compromised. He is specifically interested in high-temperature superconductors (HTS), a recently commercialized class of superconductor that could reduce the size and expense of future fusion projects. ... more

Rasheed Auguste

Rasheed Auguste: Advocating for change on campus and Capitol Hill

NSE senior Rasheed Auguste is fueled by passions for science, policy, and creating a more inclusive MIT. ... more

Caroline Colbert

Caroline Colbert: Paving a Path to Medicine

NSE senior Caroline Colbert had expected to pursue a career in nuclear power. But after working in a medical environment, she changed her plans. ... more

Silvia Espinosa

Silvia Espinosa: On the edge of discovery

A fourth-year nuclear science and engineering graduate student at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC), Espinosa is seeking to understand phenomena observed in plasmas that fuel magnetic fusion devices like the Center’s Alcator C-Mod tokamak. ... more

Jayson Vavrek

Jayson Vavrek: Turning particle detectors into weapons detectors

Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE) graduate student Jayson Vavrek got his start in high-energy particle physics, looking for the smallest forms of matter in the universe. Now at MIT, he uses the same tools and principles to verify nuclear weapons. ... more

Cody Dennett

Cody Dennett: Scrutinizing radiation’s impact

Nuclear Science and Engineering doctoral student Cody Dennett cannot measure firsthand the powerful pummeling taken by structural parts in the heart of working nuclear reactors. Instead, he has developed novel experimental methods to reveal in real-time, high resolution detail the destructive impact of radiation on reactor components. ... more

Carolyn Coyle

Carolyn Coyle: Engineering CRUD for better reactors

Nuclear Science and Engineering doctoral student Carolyn Coyle ’13 SM ’16 specializes in the corrosive particle build-up found on primary components of nuclear reactors, known by its apt acronym, CRUD (for Chalk River Unidentified Deposits). The substance is a common byproduct of reactor operation, yet its impacts on reactor function have not yet been carefully elucidated. Coyle’s research, part of a larger effort to improve reactor safety and efficiency, aims to bring CRUD out of the shadows. ... more

Amelia Trainer

Amelia Trainer: Structuring improved simulations for reactor physics

Trainer, a sophomore majoring in physics and nuclear science and engineering, calls “Scaffolding” “probably the most true and meaningful love poem I’ve read.” But its metaphorical take on a relationship might also resonate for Trainer around her work with the Computational Reactor Physics Group (CRPG), where Trainer is deeply committed to learning about strengthening structures in a nuclear realm. ... more

Carolena Ruprecht

Carolena Ruprecht: On board with nuclear engineering for the Navy

Few undergraduates have pinned down their post-graduation plans as precisely as Carolena Ruprecht. Just after commencement on June 3, 2016, Ruprecht will attend a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) commissioning ceremony, and then be whisked off to her commission as a surface warfare officer, destined to serve on an aircraft carrier. ... more

Aditi Verma

Aditi Verma: A multidisciplinary take on nuclear policy

A doctoral student in nuclear science and engineering, Verma has spent her academic career acquiring the expertise in science, engineering and the social sciences required to make sense of complex policy questions that arise around nuclear energy. ... more

Ruaridh Macdonald

Ruaridh Macdonald: Engineering nuclear security

NSE graduate student Ruaridh Macdonald is involved in a project called Zero Knowledge Warhead Verification, developing a tool to identify nuclear weapons without divulging too much. ... more

Alex Creely, Adam Kuang

Kuang, Creely already contributing to fusion’s advancement

This summer, nuclear fusion researchers at MIT and Germany’s Max Planck Institute will learn more about what’s going on inside their reactors, thanks in part to the accomplishments of two first-year Nuclear Science and Engineering doctoral students. ... more

Benjamin Lawrence Magolan

Coding for cooling: Benjamin Magolan helps model improved coolant flow

After tinkering for months with thousands of lines of computer code, Benjamin L. Magolan believes he is finally getting somewhere: “I’ve had a breakthrough with my implementation and now everything is coming together,” he says. “I’m capturing the appropriate turbulence trends in my model.” ... more

Sterling Harper

NSE senior Sterling Harper tackles nuclear energy risk with virtual simulation tools

Several years ago, as an incoming freshman, current MIT senior Sterling Harper had no inkling that he’d find his passion in writing nuclear engineering software. But after signing up on a whim for a pre-orientation program with the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE), Harper was hooked, and is now set to graduate from a five-year program with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the field next year. ... more

Lulu Li

Lulu Li: Modeling the maelstrom inside a reactor

The frenetic dance of neutrons inside a nuclear reactor generates heat and produces electricity. Reactor physicist Lulu Li wants to make sense of this kinetic choreography, with the ultimate goal, she says, of “making nuclear reactors safer, more reliable and economical to operate.” A fourth year doctoral student and member of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering’s Computational Reactor Physics Group (CRPG), Li is developing precise and detailed simulations of neutron behavior that could have a major impact on current and future generations of nuclear reactors. ... more

Alexandre Cooper-Roy, Masashi Hirose, Ashok Ajoy

Doctoral students seek quantum control in Prof. Cappellaro’s Quantum Engineering Group

MIT’s Quantum Engineering Group (QEG) has a challenging but potentially world-changing mission: to harness the quantum properties of matter for use in information technology, metrology, defense, healthcare, and many other fields. ... more

Mareena Robinson

Mareena Robinson: An unexpected path to nuclear engineering

When she was accepted into the undergraduate business program at Florida A&M University (FAMU), Mareena Robinson thought she had her future all figured out: She would go to law school and become an attorney, like her father, or else a businesswoman. ... more

Yan Chen

Altering the energy landscape: Yan Chen’s work on fuel cell catalysts could help integrate new power solutions

Doctoral candidate Yan Chen wants to improve the world. She doesn’t say this directly, but her five years of research on catalytic surfaces for use in high-temperature fuel cells say it for her. Her work has the potential to create efficient new energy solutions to help curb the world’s appetite for carbon-based fuels. ... more

Pavlina Karafillis and Rasheed Auguste

Open-Ended Problems With No Answer Keys: Freshmen Karafillis and Auguste Thrive on NSE Lab Team

What do MIT freshmen Pavlina Karafillis and Rasheed Auguste like about their work in the Short Lab, NSE Assistant Professor Mike Short’s materials research group?

“There’s no answer key — you have to figure things out on your own,” says Karafillis. Adds Auguste, “it’s like one big open-ended problem; nobody tells you exactly how to attack it.” ... more

Minh Dinh

NSE undergrad Minh Dinh’s love of learning, materials, and programming leads him to research group role

Minh Dinh has always had a love of learning; it got a big boost when he was attending high school in Hue City, Viet Nam, and a university enrichment program introduced him to nuclear physics. “It made me think, wow, this stuff is so cool, I want to learn more about it — that’s when I decided to study nuclear engineering in college,” he recalls. ... more

Margo Batie

Margo Batie: A physicist, an athlete, and an engineer

Studying both physics and nuclear science and engineering at MIT is no small challenge, but it’s just one of the activities that senior Margo Batie juggles. During her time at MIT, Batie has played on the varsity basketball team, led the women’s club rugby team, conducted research at two national laboratories, and helped strengthen minority support systems and outreach programs. ...more

Gabrielle Ledoux

NSE UROPs give Ledoux a perfect intersection for materials studies

Gabrielle Ledoux came to MIT as a freshman in 2012 with a longtime interest in materials science, and a passion for research and discovery — a combination that’s finding fulfillment at MIT Nuclear Science and Engineering, where her participation in a series of investigations has led to a dual major and a Summer 2013 project that Ledoux calls “a perfect intersection of all my interests.” ... more

Rosemary Sugrue

Rosemary Sugrue: Tracking bubbles for improved nuclear safety

Whether soloing on tenor saxophone in a jazz band, souping up a racing coupe, or serving as the lone woman operator at a nuclear power plant, Rosemary Sugrue seizes opportunities to stretch herself and learn. This second-year graduate student, who says she has always “enjoyed problem-solving, critical thinking and mechanical things,” arrived at MIT as a freshman in 2007 restless to explore new domains. ... more

Zach hartwig

Zach Hartwig applies physics, teamwork to create new tools for fusion energy science

As an undergraduate engineering student, Zach Hartwig was introduced to the methods, procedures and practices that form an engineer’s toolkit. But, he recalls, his real interest was in “the principles the tools were built on, the fundamental physics that lay behind them.” So he switched majors and became a physicist, spending the next few years working in particle physics before joining the MIT NSE doctoral program. ... more

Jake Jurewicz

Jake Jurewicz: An undergraduate contributes to fusion reactor advancement

Like many in the MIT community, Jake Jurewicz has felt a lifelong attraction to engineering. “Growing up, all I ever played with were Legos and Lincoln Logs, things that involved building,” he recalls. ... more

Lindsey Anne Gilman

Lindsey Anne Gilman: Better boiling for more efficient energy production

For Lindsey Anne Gilman, SM ’12, playing with bubbles is serious work. Her PhD research project, launched this past summer, concerns ways of improving heat transfer for energy production utilizing boiling water. In nuclear reactors, the formation and movement of bubbles in boiling water turns out to be a critical issue: “If instead of nice little bubbles leaving the surface of the fuel, you get a film of vapor forming, the temperature of the fuel rods can increase,” says Gilman. “When this happens, you have reached critical heat flux. The concern is that if the temperature of the fuel rods gets high enough, the structural integrity of the rods might be compromised, and even fail.” ... more

Ekaterina Paramonova

Ekaterina Paramonova: A nuclear networker

Ekaterina (Katia) Paramonova ’13 acknowledges starting Course 22 with some distinct advantages: both her father and grandfather work in the nuclear industry, and her Russian parents insisted on fluency in the language, opening up opportunities in another country with a well-established nuclear sector. Now this 19-year-old undergraduate is intent on leveraging her assets in some surprising ways, establishing a unique career track that intriguingly combines nuclear engineering and diplomacy. ... more

Fusion at NSE

Daniel Casey: Exploring a “little star” on Earth

In 2010, after a decade of meticulous preparation, Daniel Casey and an MIT team finally ran their experiment. The world’s largest laser struck a millimeter-sized target, and in less than a second, it was all over. Casey, now a post-doctoral associate in MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center, recalls, “You heard a little pop, but there was no other sight or sound in the control room.” Yet if the moment itself proved an anticlimax, the experiment has paid off in spades, yielding data that opens a window onto extreme conditions found nowhere else on Earth, and starting a new chapter in high energy density physics. ... more

Sara Ferry

Sara Ferry: A new generation works to fulfill the promise of nuclear energy

The world of nuclear technology is in a generational transition. Many nuclear engineers and scientists were trained between the 1950s and 1970s, but entry to the field slowed in subsequent decades; NSE Ph.D. student Sara Ferry is part of a new cadre of technologists who are working to fulfill the promise of nuclear energy in a world very different from that of their predecessors. ... more

Clarice Aiello

Clarice Aiello: Finding quantum gold in diamond’s defect

The kind of diamond Clarice Aiello values does not come in a dazzling pear or square cut, swaddled in black velvet on a counter at Tiffany’s. Instead, it exists as a millimeter-sized chunk on a sturdy table in a lab she built. What’s more, Aiello is not searching for perfection in her rock, but imperfection of a remarkable kind: a naturally occurring defect in the diamond’s lattice that, if manipulated properly, gives rise to quantum phenomena. ... more

Ashley Finan

Ashley Finan: Developing better policy for energy innovation

When Ashley Finan receives her Ph.D. in Nuclear Science and Engineering, it won’t be so much the culmination of an academic career as a milestone in a journey begun a decade ago. Finan credits some unique opportunities at MIT with setting her on a path toward a “place where it’s possible to make the most positive impact” on clean energy solutions and climate change. ... more

Silicone Carbide Cladding Proves its Mettle

David Carpenter: Silicon Carbide Cladding Proves its Mettle

Innovation is powerful, but in a field like nuclear engineering, new materials, designs and processes must prove their merit under all foreseeable conditions before moving into everyday use. An NSE team is using specialized facilities of the MIT Nuclear Reactor Laboratory to evaluate a new approach to protecting reactor fuel rods, with the prospect of enabling better reactor performance and safety, while also reducing waste production. more