The Nuclear and Radiation Engineering and Thermal Fluids Systems programs in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have been awarded $750,000 to establish an outreach program with historically black colleges and universities to introduce students and faculty to nuclear science and engineering.
The three-year grant comes from the Office of Naval Research, and three historically black universities have been identified to take part in the program: Austin’s Huston-Tillotson University, Texas Southern University in Houston and Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Mechanical Engineering professors Sheldon Landsberger and Ofodike Ezekoye, who will oversee the year-round program, say a consortium of schools will be set up with The University of Texas at Austin taking the lead. They expect the program to include five to seven students and one faculty member from each university.
Landsberger, who holds the Hayden Head Centennial Professorship in the Cockrell School of Engineering, says nuclear engineering is a discipline that lags in attracting minorities, in particular African Americans.
“The University of Texas at Austin is the premier teaching institution in Texas and should take the lead in aiding students in historically black colleges and universities in the critical area of nuclear science and engineering,” he says. “As nuclear scientists and engineers are in high demand, it helps all involved for us to reach out to a segment of the population that hasn’t benefitted as much from this discipline.”
Landsberger says there’s a growing need for nuclear scientists and engineers in the areas of nuclear medicine and homeland security and within the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Department of Defense. Mechanical Engineering Lecturer David Hearnsberger, as well as several undergraduate students, will assist Landsberger and Ezekoye in implementing the program.
Each college or university will provide a detailed academic plan and participate in monthly conference calls and two to three meetings annually with university faculty. Students from the historically black universities will be encouraged to participate in summer internship research at the Nuclear Engineering Teaching Lab at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus or will be given the opportunities to seek internships at other nuclear-related laboratories or the nuclear industry.
“Such a program would identify top students in these colleges and universities to be recruited to graduate school at Texas,” Landsberger says.
About one-third of the grant, Landsberger says, will remain at the university to be used for internship and course development, administration costs and use of the Nuclear Engineering Teaching Lab.