Mark Pierson, associate professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, has been named the first director of its nuclear engineering program.

The nuclear engineering program is part of the university's Department of Mechanical Engineering and consists of five faculty members and one staff person along with several supporting faculty. The program offers a Master of Science degree (thesis and non-thesis options) and a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering. 

A graduate certificate in nuclear engineering is also open to all engineering and science students.

Virginia Tech revived its nuclear engineering program in 2007 and immediately offered undergraduate and graduate coursework. Pierson played a significant role in launching the new nuclear engineering education program. The program start was driven by interest from the Virginia nuclear industry and was given its original vision by Richard Benson, the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Chair of Engineering and dean of the College of Engineering.

The nuclear engineering program has since received approximately $1.7 million from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for curriculum development, graduate fellowships, and faculty development as well as $1.76 million from the Department of Energy for undergraduate scholarships, graduate fellowships, laboratory equipment, and nuclear engineering research.

"I am thrilled that Professor Pierson has agreed to direct our nuclear engineering program," said Robert Parker, the L.S. Randolph Professor in Mechanical Engineering head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. "Mark has dedicated enormous energy to bring our program to its current stage, and he will be a wonderful leader as the program expands in its research and educational offerings. He has demonstrated leadership at Virginia Tech as well as in the demanding role as an executive officer of a Navy submarine. We are in excellent hands."

Pierson has more than 23 years of experience in the U.S. Navy where he served as a radiological controls officer, chief engineer on a nuclear submarine in charge of operation and maintenance of the ship's nuclear reactor, a staff member at the Naval Reactors Headquarters, executive officer (second-in-command) of a nuclear submarine, and deputy department head of Engineering, Materials, and Physical Sciences at the Office of Naval Research. 

He received his bachelor's degree from the University of California at Davis and his master's degree and Ph.D. from Virginia Tech.