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Radiochemistry Center of Excellence students and professors at the recent NNSA academic symposium in Bethesda, Maryland.
Radiochemistry Center of Excellence students and professors at the recent NNSA academic symposium in Bethesda, Maryland.

The National Nuclear Security Administration’s Stewardship Science Academic Program (SSAP) Annual Review attracted more than 300 attendees to its recent event in Bethesda, Maryland. Among them were seventeen members of UT’s Radiochemistry Center of Excellence, also known as Radchem.

Speakers, presenters, and poster sessions covered a range of technical topics related to nuclear research, with UT’s presence widely felt.

The poster competition alone saw 120 presentations, all designed by students, laboratories, or consortia. UT’s seventeen entries came in well ahead of second-place University of Nevada, Las Vegas, which had eleven. Other universities, labs, and consortia averaged one to three posters.

Radchem also brought research assistant professor of nuclear engineering John Auxier, known for being the youngest radiochemistry professorial hire—as well as the only radiochemistry professorial hire—in the country for 2015. Along with Auxier, Governor’s Chair for Global Nuclear Security Howard Hall and Professor of Chemistry George Schweitzer give UT three of the rare but important positions.

Established with a $6 million grant by the NNSA in 2013, Radchem has been an overwhelming success, producing five dissertations, forty-two conference papers, and eleven publications related to radiochemistry.

Unlike many such centers whose primary areas of growth are with educational partners, Radchem’s work partnerships with industry and labs, such as with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Y-12 National Security Complex, Oak Ridge Associated Universities, and others, give students practical knowledge before they enter the workforce.

Radchem currently funds seventeen graduate research associates. It has seen four of its students win awards for best presentations at the American Nuclear Society and Institute for Nuclear Materials Management conferences, two others win the American Chemical Society’s Coryell Award for undergraduate research, and another win an award for best poster at this year’s SSAP Symposium.

Radchem’s research facilitates breakthroughs in medicine, environment, agriculture, archaeology, and astronomy, but an area of particular focus is national security.

Given that, it should come as no surprise that the US Army currently fully funds three students at the center to help build its nuclear counterproliferation officer corps. In fact, three other such students have come through UT in the past; two of them are now teaching at the US Military Academy at West Point.


Sumner Brown (