Nuclear engineering students receive Department of Energy awards

Posted: May 3, 2022

This April, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced more than $5 million in scholarships and fellowships for nuclear energy and engineering students across the country through its University Nuclear Leadership Program (UNLP). Among the awards were a $10,000 scholarship and a $161,000 fellowship awarded to two students at The Ohio State University.

Emily Gordon is an undergraduate student in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering’s nuclear engineering minor program, and recipient of a DOE undergraduate scholarship.

Emily Gordon

“I am thrilled to receive this scholarship,” Gordon said. “Being acknowledged by DOE for my work in nuclear as an undergraduate student is such an honor.”

Gordon is currently working with nuclear engineering program director Raymond Cao on a project to irradiate a salt fuel sample inside the Ohio State nuclear reactor. Gordon’s major is chemical engineering, and the project has been a way for her to combine her research interests in chemistry and nuclear engineering.

Gordon said that moving forward she hopes to continue to explore the crossroads of chemistry and nuclear science, and that the DOE scholarship will help open the door as she transitions into graduate studies.

“I hope to continue to work in research and get even more experience with what the nuclear science world has to offer,” Gordon said. “The opportunities that this field has to offer are vast. I feel like this career choice is a perfect fit more me and I am just really excited to work more.”

Jack Lanza

Jack Lanza is an incoming Ph.D. student in the nuclear engineering program, and the Ohio State recipient of a DOE graduate fellowship. Lanza focused on mechanical engineering in his undergraduate studies, but began to explore the nuclear field through the nuclear engineering minor program.

“I realized that nuclear energy is a future that I want to take part in, inspiring me to get involved in research with Dr. Raymond Cao,” Lanza said.

Both Gordon and Lanza are advised by Dr. Cao who was excited to hear his students had received Department of Energy awards.


“I am so happy for Emily and Jack to win these extremely competitive awards, which speaks to their achievement in class and in my lab engaging with nuclear research,” said Dr. Cao, “I am also grateful for the DOE UNLP program in helping the university to attract and recruit the best students – there are tons of opportunities out there”.

Lanza’s research centers around shielding Gallium-Nitride (GaN) semiconductors and electronics. These electronics act as sensors that are constantly bombarded with radiation, neutrons and high temperatures. The environment of a nuclear lab shortens the lifespan of vital sensors and electronic equipment. The research aims to support the DOE’s goal to improve competitiveness and viability of domestic reactors by providing higher-efficiency electronics by improving shielding and residence of existing GaN technology, to prolong equipment lifespans.

For Lanza, the fellowship comes as a culmination of his work.

“For me, receiving this fellowship means that all my work has paid off,” Lanza said.

Lanza expressed his struggles with mental health and anxiety in an ever-evolving world. He said like many who have been impacted by the drastic changes over the past few years, there were times when he felt unsure of himself and his own abilities. But for Lanza, the fellowship is not just a sign he is on the right path, it is a sign that it is okay to be unsure.

“To others and myself, I hope that this fellowship means that no matter where you are at in life, it is okay to be uncertain and uncomfortable with who you are and where you are going,” said Lanza.

As a part of the fellowship, Lanza will take part in a 10-week summer internship with the DOE, something he hopes will begin to launch him toward his career goals. Originally planning to earn a graduate degree in business administration, Lanza said a change of heart last summer inspired him to begin the road to becoming a professor, where he can create an impact among students and also globally through research.

Lanza hopes through the fellowship he can become connected with faculty and start finding ways to make impactful change through his research.