Our Department

Origins and Early Development

The department of nuclear engineering and radiation science has its origins back in the 50’s when everyone was excited about the new “atomic energy”. One of the early problems was how to radioactive elements such as uranium and plutonium metal. In other words it was a metallurgical problem.  So metallurgy faculty, led by professor of metallurgical engineering Daniel S. Eppelsheimer at the Missouri School of Mines here lobbied for a new option to the current BS in Metallurgical Engineering.  In 1956, the faculty approved “an option in Nuclear Engineering in the Metallurgical Engineering Department.”  The option was available beginning in September of that year.

Academic Evolution

In 1957, the Atomic Energy Commission (the predecessor to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission) awarded three grants to universities (U.C.L.A. and Ohio State were the others) to build a nuclear reactor on campus. The new reactor first 'went critical' and achieved a self-sustained, nuclear chain reaction in December of 1961. Since that time the reactor has played a prominent role in the education and training of hundreds of nuclear engineering and other UMR students, as well as utility nuclear power plant operators.   

Departmental Restructuring

The faculty developed an MS degree in nuclear engineering which was approved in 1962.  Likewise, a PhD degree was approved in 1964.  In the early ‘70s an actual BS in nuclear engineering was created, still administered by the metallurgical engineering department, with the first degree awarded in 1975.

Effective in 1983 the department of metallurgy and nuclear engineering divided into two departments and the first actual department of nuclear engineering was born. The new department continued to produce BS, MS and PhDs in nuclear engineering.

In 2004, a series of mergers of smaller departments precipitated a merger between nuclear engineering and mining engineering to create the mining and nuclear engineering department which offered separate degrees in the two disciplines.  In 2021 the decision was made to separate the two departments creating the nuclear engineering and radiation science department and Associate Professor Adeji Alajo led the new department as Interim Chair initially. Finally, Professor Joseph Newkirk became the new Founding Chair and Professor of Nuclear Engineering, which he still leads.