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One of the departments in the College of Engineering recently gained a major boost to its faculty ranks thanks to the addition of a nationally recognized expert.

The Department of Nuclear Engineering, already tied as the No. 4 public nuclear engineering program in the country, welcomed Richard Wood as a full-time professor in January.

Wood recently retired from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where he held a joint appointment with UT.

In his thirty years at ORNL, Wood established himself as a foremost authority on a number of topics and served as the lead researcher for some national programs.

“Richard served as the technical area lead for instrumentation, controls, and human machine interfaces under the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Small Modular Reactor research and development program,” said Wes Hines, head of the department. “That national leadership position was entrusted to him because of his unique knowledge of nuclear topics and challenges, proven research, and leadership track record.”

It’s those challenges that seem to fuel Wood and his research the most.

He has spent countless hours developing an expertise in improving nuclear technology within the constraints that often come with it, including licensing issues and modernizing applications.

He is a leading figure in studies mitigating some of the roadblocks to more widespread adaptation of digital technology and monitoring.

That research alone has brought him exposure to and interactions with the DOE and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a major plus for UT.

“Based on evidence from industry interactions, funding agency programs, and licensing experience, there are clearly numerous issues and opportunities within the discipline, as well as a need for nuclear engineers in the workforce with specific knowledge of digital instrumentation and control technology,” said Wood. “A digital instrumentation and control research emphasis in a setting such as UT could really benefit both students and the industry.”

Wood said that as part of the effort to implement those educational ideas, industrial funding for the endowment of a research chair or professorship would be strategically critical, and that he has already had some contact along those lines.

He said several nuclear plants and research facilities have also expressed interest in students learning the techniques, cementing their real-world importance.

In addition to his practical knowledge of nuclear science and engineering itself, Wood’s longstanding experiences with the DOE could benefit the department down the road.

“My relationships with DOE program management and national lab colleagues will help to identify research opportunities and establish a role for UT,” said Wood. “That benefits our department and students both in seeking out and defining upcoming projects, as well as helping meet the goals of such projects.”


David Goddard (865-974-0683,