Three Virginia Tech students have received scholarships from the Office of Nuclear Energy in the Department of Energy (DOE-NE) to advance their studies in the field of nuclear engineering.

While Virginia Tech does not yet have an undergraduate degree in nuclear engineering, the first cohort of nuclear engineering minors were conferred in the spring 2020 commencement ceremonies. As the program continues to grow, there is great promise in the academic strength of the students engaged in the program.

Of particular note is a scholarship given by the DOE to a small group of students nationwide. The Office of Nuclear Energy's Integrated University Program includes 86 universities from around the US, of which 42 have students who have received awards. Universities must apply for a grant for their students to be eligible, and Virginia Tech’s grant has been active since 2009.

According to the Department of Energy website, the program offers undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships to students pursuing nuclear engineering degrees and other nuclear science and engineering programs relevant to nuclear energy. Each undergraduate scholarship provides $7,500 to help cover education costs for the upcoming year. From Virginia Tech, three students applied for the scholarship this year and all were awarded. All three are juniors majoring in mechanical engineering.

Adam Berlinerman, a junior from Richmond, was one of this year’s recipients. He expressed excitement about the potential of the field of nuclear engineering. “What interests me about nuclear engineering is the intellectual challenges it presents,” he said. “The education I am receiving now and will receive will be the foundation for me to pursue my goals of working on the research and development side of new reactors.”

Also receiving a scholarship was Ayden Cohn, a junior from Norfolk. “Nuclear engineering interests me because it could be a key energy source in the future as we shift away from fossil fuels,” he said. “If managed safely, it will be one of the most, if not the most, efficient sources of energy. I hope to apply my education in the future to help make nuclear energy more widely used.”

The third recipient, Great Falls resident Shayan Sanjideh, also commented on the burgeoning industry to which his education could allow him to contribute. “Nuclear engineering interests me because it is something whose potential isn’t fully realized yet,” he said. “I want to help contribute as much I can to this relatively new field of science.”

Mark Pierson, an associate professor of practice and coordinator of the undergraduate nuclear program, expressed excitement about the momentum that the minor has achieved. “I am very happy with the support that our program is receiving from the Department of Energy. That three of our students in the nuclear engineering minor received a DOE-NE scholarship is a testament to the quality of the students in our program. This is significant since this is a national competition.”

More about the Virginia Tech nuclear engineering program is available on the program website.