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Zeanah Engineering Complex.

Nuclear Engineering Ready to Welcome Students to ANS Conference

More than two years of planning, preparation, and patiently counting the days will come to fruition Thursday, as the Department of Nuclear Engineering (NE) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, welcomes students, faculty, and staff for the 2023 American Nuclear Society (ANS) Student Conference.

“This is going to be the biggest nuclear engineering event we’ve had, and one of the most important annual gatherings in academia focused specifically on nuclear engineering,” said Postelle Professor, Chancellor’s Professor, and Department of Nuclear Engineering Head Wes Hines. “Hosting this conference is our chance to share our students, our faculty and staff, and our research spaces with other departments and organizations within the field of nuclear engineering.”

NE graduate student Emma Houston agreed, noting that it was also a chance to show how the department supports its students beyond the classroom.

“We get to connect students from different institutions, showcase the work we are doing here, and give people a chance to meet with prospective employers that will have booths during the conference,” said Houston, who plans to continue at UT for her doctorate. “It also shows the department’s investment in us, not just in the classroom, but as people. They have an interest in our development other than merely academically.”

The Zeanah Engineering Complex is the largest academic building on UT’s campus, at 228,000 square feet. It was designed to be the “Gateway to Engineering,” a way to show off the technology and support that the Tickle College of Engineering gives its students, faculty, and staff.

As it plays host to the event—which is expected to draw more than 700 participants, including more than 500 students—it will also be an attraction in its own right, highlighting the commitment UT has to nuclear engineering.

Conference participants will have the chance to go on several tours highlighting the building and the technology it houses. It is believed to be the largest gathering that the ANS student conference has had, which means a large number of people will see things that set UT’s nuclear program apart from other schools.

“It’s an opportunity to show potential grad students why they should come here after they earn their undergraduate degrees,” said Katie Butler, who works as a graduate research assistant in addition to her studies. “Not a lot of nuclear engineering departments have buildings like this. The conference gives us the ability to show off the complex and the cool new tech we have here.”

In addition to presentations, sessions, and tours, participants will also hear from several high-profile people from within nuclear engineering, including Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Kathryn Huff, International Atomic Energy Agency program coordinator Jean-Pierre Cayol, and Miss America Grace Stanke, who is a senior majoring in nuclear engineering at the University of Wisconsin.

In addition to Houston and Butler, other UT nuclear engineering students who led different teams in areas of the planning for the conference are Sydney Copp, Lance Drouet, Alyssa Hayes, Sophie Hitson, and Anthony Tom.

They were quick to praise faculty members Assistant Professors Sandra Bogetic, Livia Casali, Ivis Chaple, Deborah Penchoff, and Associate Professors Nick Brown and Jamie Coble. NE staff member Ashley Nelkin was also singled out for the support she gave the group.

ANS was founded in 1954 to promote the then-fairly new concept of nuclear power as a reliable energy source and to boost is use.