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Smidts advocates for nuclear science and engineering in new role
In June 2016, Vish Subramaniam became MAE chair and quickly began a restructuring to make its administration more effective. “The new structure will allow us to concentrate on a long-term vision of further improving MAE’s national and international reputation by focusing more on our research and teaching missions,” Subramaniam said.
As part of this new administrative structure, Subramaniam appointed Professor Carol Smidts as Director of the Nuclear Engineering (NE) Program, one of several new positions realigned as a collaborative working model to leverage best practices and minimize administrative burden while supporting all three graduate programs and both undergraduate programs.
Smidts earned her MS and PhD degrees from the Universite Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium and joined The Ohio State University in 2008. Her research interests include probabilistic risk assessment, human reliability modeling, software reliability modeling, and digital systems reliability.
In her new role, Smidts represents the NE program internally and externally, providing advocacy and leadership in program development, strategic planning and recruiting quality students. She serves as liaison to federal agencies, national laboratories, the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators, the Nuclear Engineering External Advisory Board and internal organizations such as The Ohio State University’s Office of Energy and the Environment. Smidts will also assist in managing the NE minor program and directs several nuclear engineering-specific funds and endowments.
“My vision is for the NE program to be recognized nationally and internationally for its excellence,” Smidts said. Specifically, Smidts wants the program to excel in research and instruction in nuclear science and engineering, produce quality graduates who succeed in their careers, disseminate knowledge in support of Ohio and regional academic institutions, support Ohio and regional industries and successfully operate The Ohio State University Nuclear Reactor Laboratory (OSU-NRL) for a wide variety of nuclear-related research endeavors.
According to Smidts, meeting these goals will depend upon the ability to grow the number of NE faculty, increase the NE graduate student population, modernize the OSU-NRL and expand its research capabilities, and implement an undergraduate nuclear engineering major program.
“We are implementing strategies to address these challenges,” Smidts said. “One initiative is to actively promote the NE program across the university, expanding our outreach to disciplines that have not typically been targets of recruitment,” she noted. Other opportunities include actively recruiting students outside of the university, aggressively pursuing scholarships and fellowships and improving the nuclear engineering pipeline.
Still, the NE program ranks 13th in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report in the 2017 edition, and is on an upward trajectory with Smidts at the helm. “Nuclear engineers are experts in their field, as well as in related disciplines such as electronics, thermodynamics, physics, computer science, medicine, chemistry, materials science and green energy,” she said.
“Nuclear engineering is recognized as one of the most integrated engineering disciplines,” Smidts commented. “We have a great repertoire from which to draw to attract the best and brightest faculty and students.”