Strategic Plan



The Department of Nuclear Engineering at NC State University is the only nuclear engineering degree- granting program in the State of North Carolina, and is one of a handful of such programs in the Southeast region of the United States, a region that is evolving into the nation’s hub for the nuclear power industry. The Department’s Nuclear Reactor Program operates one of only two research reactors in the Southeast, and the only such reactor rated for operation at the 1 MW, soon to rise to 2 MW, thermal power level.

The roots of the Department originate in the first undergraduate and graduate academic programs in nuclear engineering in the US dating back to 1950. At that time these programs were administered by the Physics Department that was administratively in the College of Engineering. The first sets of four BS and three MS degrees in nuclear engineering were granted in 1951, and the first two PhD degrees in nuclear engineering were granted in 1954. Also in the early 1950s the first non-governmental, university-based nuclear reactor was constructed on campus. In 1961 the Department of Nuclear Engineering was created as a standalone department in the College of Engineering, and in 1971 the fourth in the sequence of on- campus reactors, the PULSTAR, went critical and remains in operation for the foreseeable future. The Department’s Nuclear Reactor Program built around the PULSTAR is the premier university-based research reactor program in the nation engaged in teaching, research, and service activities.

As a Department of a top-tier academic institution advanced intellectual pursuits form the backbone of all our activities. We seek to create new knowledge, examine novel ideas, and develop innovative products. However, our primary product is our graduating students who are heavily engaged in the development and dissemination of these tangible products. The education and training that our students attain in the structured classroom environment and in the less structured R&D process equip them with invaluable skills that will propel their careers to success for the benefit of the profession and society at large.

NC State University is a land grant university, and is categorized as a research intensive institution. These two facts motivate our mission. Our proud history and stature in the State and in the Southeast drive our vision. The recently adopted strategic plans by North Carolina State University and by its College of Engineering guide our strategic goals and establish a broader framework for their achievement.


Our primary mission is to provide our bachelors, masters, and doctoral students with top-notch educational experiences in the diverse range of topics comprising the field of nuclear engineering. World class research experience is one of the main ingredients necessary for achieving our primary mission stated above and connects us to the global communities of producers and consumers of advanced research. The curricula and research opportunities that we provide to our students are designed to instill in them team-spirit, leadership skills, inquisitive and critical thinking, interdisciplinary exploration, global engagement, and ethical professionalism. Additionally we engage in extension and service activities in recognition of our obligation to our primary benefactor, the State of North Carolina and its people, to our constituencies, our local community, employers of our students and sponsors of our research projects, and to humankind at large.


NC State University’s Department of Nuclear Engineering will be the premier US graduate and undergraduate program in the field whose graduates are coveted by employers and will grow professionally to take prominent leadership roles, and whose faculty are sought for advice on matters of national importance as they assume leadership roles on the national and international scenes.


Strategic Goals

As an academic department we are a student-centered organization. This means that most of our activities are motivated by adding value to the educational experience of our undergraduate and graduate students either directly in the classroom, or indirectly by raising the Department’s profile in the nuclear engineering community. The former is achieved by improving our curriculum, technical content of courses we offer, and quality of our laboratories; the latter is achieved by hiring and retaining renowned scholars on our faculty, facilitating national and international leadership roles for our faculty, and engaging in high visibility research. Moreover, service and extension activities that we participate in seek to enhance our image among our external constituencies as this reflects positively on our graduates throughout their careers. The five strategic goals listed below align in spirit with the University’s and the College’s recently adopted strategic goals, but are tailored to address our Department’s specific needs and aspirations for the remainder of this decade.

Goal 1: Enhance Student Success through Educational Excellence

NC State’s Department of Nuclear Engineering has an established reputation in the five technical thrust areas that comprise our undergraduate and graduate programs: (1) Fission power reactors; (2) radiation detection and radioisotope applications including nuclear security; (3) plasma science and engineering; (4) nuclear computational science; and (5) nuclear materials. The last two thrust areas are crosscutting in nature as they find applications in the three primary thrusts. It is important for the Department to maintain our strong position within the community in areas we traditionally excel in and to retain branding of our graduating students that attracts employers to eagerly recruit them.

  •  Aggressively recruit highly qualified undergraduate and graduate students best positioned for success and instill in them a sense of pride in their selection for admission into our For undergraduate recruitment, the last three student surveys (for AY’s ending 2012-2014) have highlighted the perceived strengths of our department (student design project, undergraduate research, and interaction with peers), as well as their decision criteria in choosing nuclear engineering (love of math and science, interest in the subject, and the challenge of joining one of the most demanding programs on campus). These provide important focus points for recruitment efforts/activities. For graduate recruitment, the department needs to highlight student publications, student exposure to the field during their graduate work (conferences, publications, workshops). This may include a calculation of “student impact factor” to reinforce the importance of graduate student research in the department to the broader scientific community.
  • Utilize the ABET and SACS accreditation review process/exercise to identify and implement changes to enhance the quality of our undergraduate curriculum and students’ attainment of the program’s educational outcomes.
  • Utilize feedback from our NEDAC subcommittee on Undergraduate Program to address our external constituencies’ concerns and demands regarding our graduating BS students.
  • Invoke NC State’s periodic process for reviewing Departmental graduate programs to address our external constituencies’ concerns and demands regarding our graduating Masters and Doctoral The Department will undertake a structured review of undergraduate and graduate course sequences, particularly the core undergraduate sequence of 202, 301, and 401 and the PhD core courses 501, 520, and 521, as well as the focus area sequences in reactor physics, plasmas, thermohydraulics, measurements, and materials up to the 700 level course offerings.
  • Conduct a comprehensive review of the main elements and the detailed structure of our undergraduate curriculum to ensure it remains relevant to current and future needs in the Of particular priority is the structuring of Nuclear Engineering undergraduate laboratories in order to better emphasize them and to reduce year-to-year variability of experimental methodologies, analysis, and reporting than currently observed.3The implemented changes must restore the ultimate purpose of experimental work in academic education, namely to equip the students with an acceptable level of experimental competence and with advanced data analysis skills.
  • Liberalize graduate curriculum within the confines of Graduate School rules to empower our graduate students and their advisors to tailor their academic programs for their individual purposes.
  • Compare NC State’s PhD requirements, particularly credit hours carried over from the Masters, with peer institutions in order to be competitive for top candidates seeking admission.
  • Facilitate external internships for our undergraduate students in industry and national labs, and pursue summer research opportunities for our graduate students in national labs to help them network into the professional community and enhance relevance of their research projects.
  • It is vital at this point that the department aggressively fill the reactor physics faculty position that has been open for an extended period of This vacancy is becoming critical from the standpoint of undergraduate curriculum in particular. The department needs to increase faculty presence in this area, particularly with our undergraduate strength in power engineering.
  • The department needs a stronger strategic plan for distance education and the MNE The department needs to evaluate admission standards, particularly for distance students, to improve the currently very low student retention. The department needs a better defined course sequence for DE students, increasing course offerings, and increasing faculty participation in the Distance Education program. To this end, the department will encourage instructors to offer their 500-level courses online.



Goal 2: Enhance Scholarship & Research by Investing in Faculty & Infrastructure

Recent faculty hires (since late 2007) have focused on strengthening our presence in the Department’s five thrust areas in general with a specific objective of implementing a succession plan for potential retirement of senior faculty. Additionally, we have recruited faculty to lead our charge in three sub-areas (listed in chronological order of new faculty hired): (1) sensitivity analysis and uncertainty quantification; (2) nuclear security; and (3) nuclear reactor safety and severe accident. Our faculty must stay attuned to evolving needs in nuclear science and engineering to remain relevant to our national agenda and the Department must lend its weight to new initiatives designed to establish niches of expertise among its faculty.

Strategies & Actions

  • Continue to recruit highly qualified professionals to our faculty, especially early career individuals who can play a major role in the Department’s near and long term future.
  • Continue to recruit technical leaders in our current thrust areas, preferably mid-career or early- senior individuals in order to establish/consolidate our leadership in these areas.
  • Seek diversity in the recruitment of new faculty to modernize the substance and the image of the Department.
  • Continue to pursue joint faculty appointments, especially for junior faculty, with Oak Ridge and Idaho National Laboratories as a means of jumpstarting these faculty’s research programs and sustaining their research’s momentum beyond the initial push.
  • Seek external faculty development funds, e.g. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s awards, to amend NC State’s standard startup packages in supporting the establishment of new junior faculty’s research program.
  • Invest in maintaining the quality of our space and facilities in general and actively engage the decision-making process pertaining to the Department’s future move to Centennial Campus.
  • Provide Departmental funds as available to support faculty initiatives to upgrade or update their research labs or to invest in new equipment to enable competing for sponsored research Provide matching funds as required and beyond on major equipment grants.
  • Nominate our faculty for University and National honors and awards as appropriate.
  • Reduce faculty teaching load to 2 courses per year to provide them more time to advance their current research, compose new research proposals and advise their Ph.D. students.
  • Encourage and financially support external and internal sabbaticals (e.g. text book authorship).
  • Support faculty travel to discuss research collaborations with potential Co-PIs.
  • Support faculty travel to discuss research proposals with potential sponsors.
  • Encourage and recognize time and effort that faculty dedicate to leadership roles in organizing international technical topical meetings.
  • Work towards advancing the state of HPC capabilities that have lagged behind current technology at the Department, College and University levels.
  • Revitalize teaching laboratories, particularly in the area of T-H given the more recent faculty hires.



Goal 3: Enhance Interdisciplinary Research to Address Grand Challenges

Nuclear engineering is a multidisciplinary field by nature, a fact that is borne out by the field’s evolutionary history since the middle of last century. Our students enroll in a multitude of courses outside of the Department, either by requirement or by choice, and this exposes them to other disciplines and their practitioners. The Department’s faculty collaborate with colleagues in other departments in NC State’s College of Engineering as well as in other colleges, e.g. the Departments of Physics and Mathematics in the College of Science. Two of the grand challenges for science and technology this century, namely the provision of reliable, environmentally responsible energy and national and global security, involve nuclear engineering. Nevertheless, the scope and magnitude of these challenges are not confined to a single or even a few disciplines rather they encompass a broad range of issues including the soft sciences, e.g. public policy.

Strategies & Actions

  • Reinforce multidisciplinary aspects of the Senior Design Project by encouraging and facilitating our seniors’ collaboration with students in other departments, engineering or otherwise, to improve the quality of these non-nuclear aspects in the completed design project.
  • Create opportunities for our graduate and undergraduate students to engage other disciplines in their undergraduate and graduate research projects.
  • Provide incentives for our faculty to explore multidisciplinary research opportunities with colleagues outside the Department, and potentially outside of NC State.
  • Disseminate information on the Department’s expertise and facilities broadly within and without the NC State communities to enable colleagues searching for collaborators to reach out to our faculty.
  • Conduct a survey (by the 6 measures defined under “Metrics” below) to assess the current state of multi-disciplinary research in the Department.
  • Get input from practicing nuclear engineers and NEDAC members about the needs and benefits of multi-disciplinary training for present-day engineering practice and trends
  • Identify success stories which are built upon multi- and inter-disciplinary training and research in nuclear engineering and beyond.
  • Invite more multi-disciplinary researchers to present Departmental graduate seminars.
  • Strengthen linkage to and involvement in large-scale, characteristically multi-disciplinary, research projects in national laboratories, particularly Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratories and Sandia National Laboratories.



Goal 4: Enhance the Quality of the Department’s Operations & Governance

As a small Department our operations are small in magnitude but are complicated by the fact that our few staff must efficiently and proficiently accomplish diverse functions that in larger departments are assigned to different individuals. The growing regulatory burden on public academic institutions, while understandable and necessary, can strain operational fluency and can potentially pit accomplishment of our educational and research missions against abiding by University, State, and Federal rules and regulations. Within the Department governance is largely inclusive of the faculty but has not been sufficiently inviting to input from staff and students. Achievement of our ambitious vision requires buy-in from all internal constituencies and this can only happen if they are consulted on selected matters as appropriate. On matters where students and staff are (appropriately) not consulted the articles decided by the faculty must be communicated clearly with a concise explanation of the rationale behind the decision.

Strategies & Actions

  • Benchmark against other engineering departments at NC State the number of Departmental staff versus number of faculty and student enrollments, and the number and amount of sponsored research projects; seek new positions if disparity is discovered.
  • Provide training opportunities to Departmental staff in order to ensure awareness of new rules and online systems developed to implement them and to enable our staff to network with their colleagues in other departments who can provide help and valuable advice when needed.
  • Provide the Department’s staff with professional growth opportunities to sharpen existing skills and develop new skills that will make them more valuable to the Department’s functionality.
  • Communicate to faculty and students new rules and management systems intended to implement them, and collect their feedback to convey to upper management if necessary.
  • Invite student and staff representation and feedback on selected Departmental governance discussions as appropriate.




Goal 5: Enhance Local & Global Engagement through Strategic Partnerships:

Historically our Department has had excellent relations with the nuclear power industry both within the state, e.g. Duke Energy, GE, and Progress Energy until it merged with Duke Energy, and across the nation,Westinghouse and Over the past fifteen years the level of our engagement with Oak Ridge and Idaho National Laboratories rose on the institutional level as NC State became a partner in the two consortia that manage these two labs for the US Department of Energy. In addition, individual faculty collaborate with colleagues in these and other national laboratories on a regular basis by composing proposals or conducting research. Several national laboratory personnel hold adjunct appointments in our Department as they serve on graduate committees for our students and occasionally sponsor their research activities or host them for summer internships. The last five years have also witnessed a rise in the level of our engagement with US government agencies. Some examples include Gilligan’s management of the Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) for the US Department of Energy; Turinsky’s role as Chief Scientist of the US Department of Energy’s first energy hub the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of LWRs (CASL) and his appointment by President Obama to serve on the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board; and Hawari’s hosting international nuclear scientist groups organized by the US State Department. All these relationships are valuable to our prestige in the nuclear engineering community and infuse relevance into our educational and research activities.

Strategies & Actions

  • Create opportunities for our faculty to engage external constituencies by funding their attendance of technical conferences.
  • Seed faculty’s collaboration with colleagues in national laboratories and industry by funding on- site faculty summer “internships” designed to jumpstart their involvement in an ongoing project or in composing a funding proposal.
  • Invite faculty from academic, industrial, and government peer institutions, US and international, to spend their sabbatical or summer months in the Department collaborating with our faculty on existing research or providing an impetus for a new project by obtaining preliminary results and composing a proposal.
  • Nominate our faculty for high visibility services to our nation and globally, as well as to our professional communities, and facilitate their efforts if elected/selected to serve.
  • Support faculty travel to national laboratories and industrial institutions (e.g., to give a seminar) to encourage and enable development of collaborative research.
  • Encourage faculty to invite speakers for the Department’s weekly seminars and for the Progress Energy Distinguished Lecture series (Technical and Executive) from national laboratories, industry, government agencies, and international institutions.
  • Revitalize the trainee-ship program with existing and new industrial partners.