Two Purdue undergrads, in two completely different ways, showcase Purdue's nuclear prowess

Speaking with Abbey Jean Donahue (BSNE ’09), recent graduate and outgoing president of the Purdue chapter of the American Nuclear Society (ANS), one gets an immediate sense of how far she’s come during her years in West Lafayette.

American Nuclear SocietyFrom an incoming first-year student leaning toward biomedical engineering or aeronautics and astronautics to her current position—in June she began her career as a neutronics engineer at Areva’s American headquarters in Lynchburg, Virginia—Donahue’s trajectory through Purdue exemplifies how getting involved and taking on responsibility can shape the course of one’s life.

“I joined ANS sophomore year, and went to my first Nuke Week as a junior, which was what really inspired me to run for ANS chapter president as a senior,” she relates.

And while her responsibilities as president were myriad—from coordinating Nuke Week to leading Volunteer Day and bringing in industry representatives to talk about professional opportunities for Purdue graduates, organizing Purdue’s role in the annual ANS conference at the University of Florida was definitely her most daunting task.

“We had 17 student presenters this year, which was the second most of any university at the conference, and 13 of them presented,” Donahue says. “Basically my job was to coordinate who was presenting what research in what category, and then make all the travel arrangements, from airfare to hotel reservations, make sure we had the funding to cover it all, and then make sure we all got down there.” And that was all before she even arrived in Gainesville.

“At the conference itself, all the chapter presidents in attendance hold an executive meeting and discuss ways in which we can keep our organization relevant and helpful to our members.” Donahue says.

She also represented Purdue’s fair booth, answering questions about graduate programs and handing out information. “We had several presentation winners this year, which made us look really good as a nuclear engineering program,” Donahue sums up. “It was a great note to go out on.”

For one of those winners, Purdue rising senior Brian Heim, this was his first ANS Conference, and it, too, will be a memorable one.

Jean Paul Allain“I’ve been doing research for about a year and a half now in the Radiation Surface Science and Engineering Laboratory (RSSEL), and my advisor, Professor Jean Paul Allain, worked with me to get my conference presentation together,” Heim relates. “Specifically, the talk I gave was on control studies of lithiated graphite surfaces and their implication on hydrogen retention in the National Spherical Torus Experiment, which is housed at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. It’s based on plasma-facing components and materials.”

Translation? “Basically, one of the main roadblocks on fusion technology is that the materials we’re working with can’t withstand the high fluxes of ions or the high heat produced by the process. So we’re trying to develop new materials that can both withstand those environments and improve plasma performance, working toward steady-state fusion.”

And for that, Heim won the best presentation in the nuclear materials group. And what’s more, the Idaho National Laboratory invited him and fellow presenter Lenka Kollar (also from the RSSEL group) to give a colloquium on the topic in July. Aside from his own presentation, Heim kept busy during his days at the conference.

“I definitely made sure to attend all the presentations in the nuclear materials group, and checked out the job fair where a lot of the national labs had booths set up,” he says. “And I looked a bit at some industry applications, but mostly focused on the research side of things.”

Heim is applying to graduate school at Purdue to keep pursuing his research endeavors. “Overall, the conference was a great way to see firsthand the nuclear world, both in research and in industry,” he says. “Anyone interested in seriously pursuing nuclear engineering should definitely consider going.”

About ANS
According to its Web site, the American Nuclear Society (ANS) is a not-for-profit, international, scientific and educational organization. It was established by a group of individuals who recognized the need to unify the
professional activities within the diverse fields of nuclear science and technology. December 11, 1954, marks the Society’s historic beginning at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. ANS has since developed a multifarious membership composed of approximately 11,000 engineers, scientists, administrators, and educators representing 1,600 plus corporations, educational institutions, and government agencies.
It is governed by four officers and a board of directors elected by the membership.

The core purpose of ANS is to promote the awareness and understanding of the application of nuclear science and technology.

ANS will be the recognized credible advocate for advancing and promoting nuclear science and technology.