Boilermaker couple endows professorship in School of Nuclear Engineering

Author: Gina Vozenilek
In these hard economic times, a large gift like the one made by Paul Wattelet and his wife, Madeline, of Oak Brook, Illinois, seems especially generous.

Paul and Madeline WatteletThe endowment is a statement of their connectedness to—and through—Purdue. It was at their mutual alma mater that the couple met, he while attaining his doctorate in nuclear engineering, she while studying for her master’s in mathematics. Their gift provides funds for the Paul L. Wattelet Chair in Nuclear Engineering.

But it’s not all romantic nostalgia that urged the Wattelets to support the school in this significant way. They are giving back. “My success in nuclear engineering is a result of my time at Purdue,” says Wattelet.

After he received his doctorate in 1967, he set off for Pittsburgh and a job with Westinghouse Electric, where he helped design nuclear reactors. Then he returned to the Midwest, joining Sargent & Lundy in Chicago in 1972, where he turned his efforts to the design of nuclear power plants. He eventually rose to the position of chairman, president, and CEO, and retired in 2004. Wattelet was selected as a Purdue Distinguished Engineering Alumnus in 2002, and he served as a member of the Engineering Visiting Committee and of the Engineering Alumni Association Board at Purdue.

With this endowment, Wattelet and his wife are looking forward. “I’m a diehard nuclear power person,” Wattelet asserts. “It appears now after 25 or 30 years of hiatus, nuclear power plants are starting to come back. I see Purdue playing a big role in providing students to the field.”

Wattelet notes that even while he was in the industry, there was a shortage of nuclear engineers. He thinks that nuclear power will become a significant part of a new global energy portfolio, driving even greater demand for people with nuclear engineering degrees.

Wattelet is proud to have come from the Purdue nuclear engineering program, recognizing it as a cornerstone of nuclear engineering education in this country. “It’s one of the real success stories in the field,” he says. “Purdue hung in there when departments at other universities dissolved.”

And now the program stands to gain even greater strength from the new professorship he and his wife have made possible.

Ahmed Hassanein in his labStepping up to that challenge will be Ahmed Hassanein, the Paul L. Wattelet Professor of Nuclear Engineering. Before coming to Purdue in 2007, Hassanein was a senior scientist and group leader at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory. He has more than 25 years in research and development in the fields of nuclear engineering and materials science. Hassanein is grateful for the financial boost. He says the funds will help the department in big ways and small, from exploring new ideas in nuclear engineering to supporting travel grants for graduate students so they can present their research at conferences.

Along with the named professorship, Hassanein was made head of the School of Nuclear Engineering. He sees his new administerial role as complementary to his role as a researcher. He juggled these two professional functions at Argonne and found that “both strengthened each other.” As head of nuclear engineering, he will be charged with bringing new research concepts to the school and also will work to assemble the best team of faculty to make that research flourish.

Hassanein seeks to augment the faculty in several key areas: nanotechnology, advanced computational physics with supercomputer applications, reactor physics, and nuclear fusion. He says he “wants to make Purdue’s nuclear engineering school among the top in the nation.”

The gift from the Wattelets goes a long way toward making that happen.